Most complained-about adverts revealed

Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius ad tops the list

Updated: 
Undated handout issued by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of a Paddy Power advert offering a refund on all losing bets if Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, which received 5,525 complaints and was suspended immediately by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the seriousness of its content making light of a murder trial and the death of a woman. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 20, 2015. The three most complained-about UK adverts of all time appeared last year, making light of the Oscar Pistorius trial, using the word

The three most complained-about UK adverts of all time appeared last year, making light of the Oscar Pistorius trial, using the word "booking" in a questionable manner and offering a date with a Page 3 model.

Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius ad attracted by far the most complaints ever - 5,525 - and was suspended immediately by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the seriousness of its content making light of a murder trial and the death of a woman.

The second most-complained-about ad, for Booking.com, was cleared by the ASA this week after attracting 1,768 complaints last year alone for its apparent use of the word "booking" as a substitute for a swear word.

Some 1,711 complainants objected to the the Sun newspaper emailing its Dream Team fantasy football subscribers with details of a prize draw to win a date with a Page 3 model, believing it was sexist and objectified women.

Rise of social media

The ASA said the fact that the three most complained-about ads ever appeared last year reflected the rise of social media, which allowed members of the public to voice and co-ordinate their concerns.

Many of the complaints about the Paddy Power and the Sun ads were co-ordinated via the online petition site change.org, the ASA said.

Two of the most complained-about ads of last year related to copycat websites offering passport services, while Sainsbury's fell foul of more than 800 viewers but was cleared by the watchdog for its ad based on the 1914 Christmas Truce.

An ad for The Save the Children Fund was also cleared following 614 complaints that its ad featuring a woman giving birth to a baby was offensive, distressing and inappropriately scheduled.

Waitrose resolved more than 250 complaints that its ad claiming that 'Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose' ignored the fact that some services were outsourced by amending the wording.

Promoting smoking

Two ads for VIP electronic cigarettes were banned following 199 complaints, with the ASA ruling that they depicted the products being exhaled in a way that created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.

And an ad for Unilever's Flora Buttery was cleared following 183 complaints that its scenes of two children walking in on their parents "wrestling" was offensive and unsuitable for children to see.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "2014 was the year social media came into its own in making it easier than ever to lodge complaints en masse.

"While some ads will inevitably split opinion, as the diverse nature of complaints we received shows, last year underlined the importance of our work in cracking down on misleading ads, including copycat websites, that are simply unfair to consumers."

10 most-complained about adverts:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed the 10 most complained-about ads of 2014. They are:

1. Paddy Power, 5,525 complaints - upheld.
The ASA banned this national press ad that offered incentives to bet on the outcome of Oscar Pistorius's murder trial. It upheld complaints that the ad caused serious offence by trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability and also concluded that the approach brought advertising into disrepute.

2. Booking.com, 1,768 complaints (this figure relates to 2014 complaints only, more complaints were received in 2015) - not upheld.
This TV and cinema ad prompted complaints that the ad was offensive and encouraged bad language among children by using the word 'booking' in place of a swear word. The ASA did not uphold the complaints, judging that it was a light-hearted play on words that could not be mistaken for an actual swear word. It also ruled that it was unlikely to encourage swearing among children, and that any children that did pick up on the joke were unlikely to have learned bad language through the ad itself.

3. The Sun, 1,711 complaints - upheld.
An email sent to subscribers of The Sun's Dream Team fantasy football competition featured a prize draw to win a date with a Page 3 model. Winners were also able to pick their date. The complaints, many of which were submitted as part of a campaign led by SumOfUs.org, claimed that the ad was sexist and objectified women. The ASA upheld the complaints that the email was offensive and irresponsible for presenting women as objects to be won.

4. Sainsbury's in association with The Royal British Legion, 823 complaints - not upheld.
Sainsbury's Christmas TV ad showed a story based on the 1914 Christmas Day truce during the First World War. Most of the complainants objected to the use of an event from the First World War to advertise a supermarket. While acknowledging that some found the ad to be in poor taste, the ASA did not judge the ad to be offensive and in breach of the Code.

5. The Save the Children Fund, 614 complaints - not upheld.
The TV and video-on-demand ad featured a women giving birth to a baby with the help of a midwife and prompted complaints that the scenes were offensive, distressing and inappropriately scheduled. The ASA did not uphold the complaints and agreed that the ad's post 9pm scheduling restriction appropriately reduced the risk of younger viewers seeing the ads.

6. Waitrose, 267 complaints - resolved.
A TV and cinema ad claiming "Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose" prompted complaints from viewers who thought it was misleading because they understood that some services, like cleaning, were outsourced. When the ASA approached Waitrose with the complainants' challenges, they agreed to amend the ad. The ASA closed the case because the concerns were resolved without the need for full investigation.

7. VIP electronic cigarettes, 199 complaints - upheld.
The ASA received complaints that two VIP e-cigarette TV ads glamorised and promoted the use of tobacco products. The ASA did not uphold the complaints about glamorisation, but did consider the ads depicted the products being exhaled in a way that created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.

8. TADServices Ltd t/a uk-passport.net, 188 complaints - sector investigation.
The ASA received complaints that the site gave a false impression of being an official government site. The issues raised were used to inform a sector-wide investigation into so-called "copycat websites". The work included commissioning consumer research and taking action across the sector to remove misleading claims, imagery and emblems. It also involved supporting the Government awareness campaign #StartAtGOVUK, which warns those looking for official services to start at GOV.UK to avoid misleading websites.

9. Unilever, 183 complaints - not upheld.
This animated TV and YouTube ad for Flora Buttery showed two children making breakfast in bed for their parents and walking in on their parents "wrestling". The ASA received complaints that the ad was offensive and unsuitable for children to see. While the ASA acknowledged that the ad was suggestive, it did not contain any sexually graphic or distressing scenes and so was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to young viewers.

10. IQ Channels Ltd t/a passport-uk.co.uk, 177 complaints - sector enforcement.
The ASA received complaints that passport-uk.co.uk, which offers passport renewal services, misleadingly implied it was a government site and that its terms and conditions were not clearly available.