Revealed: the most complained about ads of 2012


George Osborne

The Advertising Standards Authority has revealed the most complained-about adverts of the year last year. The winner, generating an astonishing 1,000 complaints was definitely annoying, but was it really worthy of so many phone calls to ASA?

So who took the title, and who made the top ten?

The ASA had a big year -with 31,298 complaints about 18,890 adverts - of which 3,700 were changed or withdrawn. However, there were a few adverts that really got under our skin - leading to a huge number of complaints.

The most complained-about ad campaign of the year was Go Compare's opera singer (Gio Compario) - and a number of celebrities getting their revenge on him. This attracted a shocking 2,000 complaints - which actually doubled the number of complaints about adverts for financial products in the UK.

1. The opera singer took the top two spots in the list of most complained-about adverts. The top spot was for when former England footballer Stuart Pearce kicked a football into the singer's stomach. Some 1,008 people complained, but the ASA cleared the advert.

2. Second place went to an advert showing him being shot with a bazooka by Sue Barker, which prompted complaints that it trivialised war - and upset 797 people. The ASA disagreed.

3. Third place was Asda's 'Christmas doesn't just happen by magic' advert, which insinuated that mums do all the work at Christmas, and sparked a social media outcry - attracting 620 complaints. ASA cleared the advert, saying it reflected most families' experience of Christmas.

4. Fourth was an advert for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - which featured the line "Bigger. Fatter, Gypsier". This attracted 373 complaints and was upheld in part.

5. Fifth was a Kerry Foods advert for Richmond Ham entitled As Nature Intended' featuring nudity, which received 371 complaints. The complaints were upheld in part (because it used the word British when the ham is not from the UK)

6. Six was Paddy Power's Transgender Ladies advert, which received 311 complaints about treatment of the transgender community. However, because it was on YouTube Ireland the ASA said it was beyond its remit.

7. In joint seventh place was Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, for an advert featuring a snake attack, which was complained about by 234 people. The ASA cleared the advert, which it described as 'comical'.

7. Also joint seventh was Morrisons 'for your Christmas', because it supposedly implied it was safe to feed Christmas pudding to dogs. The ASA decided that it did no such thing.

9. In ninth place was travel comparison site, kayak, which featured a brain surgeon using a patient to search for a holiday for him while he was meant to be treating him. It received 189 complaints, and was upheld in part because it could offend people who had recently had brain surgery.

10. And tenth was St John Ambulance, and the heart-wrenching tale of a man recovering from cancer and then graphically dying by choking, which received 144 complaints. The ASA cleared the avert as justifiable given the subject-matter.

This list reveals just how difficult it is to use issues such as nudity, war and death in an advert without upsetting people.

However, it also shows that we're sensitive about things you might not expect - like people being hit with footballs, dogs eating pudding and supermarkets undervaluing the festive contribution of dads.

But what do you think? Did you find any of these adverts upsetting? Let us know in the comments.