The UK’s advertising watchdog has released a list of the most complained-about ads of all time. There are some surprising results.
Anyone guessing what adverts provoked the most complaints might speculate along the lines of sex, violence, swearing, animal cruelty and blasphemy.
Wrong. A Kentucky Fried Chicken TV advert, which aired in 2005 and featured call centre workers singing with their mouths full of food, is the most complained about of all time.
To coincide with its 50th anniversary, the Advertising Standards Authority has collated the 10 adverts from the past half century that have garnered the most complaints.
The KFC ad received a record 1,671. Many people felt it could encourage bad manners among children. But the complaint was not upheld by the ASA, which ruled it was unlikely to change children’s behaviour or undermine parental authority.
Among the other most-complained about ads was the famous Opium perfume poster ad of model Sophie Dahl reclining on a fur rug wearing nothing but a pair of strappy high-heeled shoes and some jewellery.
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Minding our manners
Simon Fanshawe, author of The Done Thing – Negotiating The Minefield Of Modern Manners, on people singing with full mouths:
The British public has a finely tuned sensor in relation to disgust. We are quite curious about it, though.
For example, if we were sitting on a train and someone opposite us was putting on their make up, we wouldn’t really mind. If they were cutting their nails, it would be a different story.
In my mind, it’s all to do with the invention of the sewers. All the things that people used to do in public were literally swept away and the Victorians developed a sense of disgust.
In terms of eating and other bodily functions, we’ve developed a very refined sense of disgust. The thing about eating, there are no absolutes, they are culturally determined.
Other cultures eat differently to how we do in western Europe. We are quite bourgeois in that we set a great deal of social store in the degree of delicacy with which we eat.
Also making the top 10 were adverts featuring a blind football player kicking a cat across a pitch, a car engineer fighting with versions of himself, and two with religious themes.
But earlier controversial trailblazers are conspicuous by their absence. Where for example, is Benetton, which pioneered the use of “shock tactics” in the 1990s?
Numbers of complaints are growing. Over the last five decades the ASA has dealt with around 431,000 complaints – 31,000 were lodged in 2011 alone.
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