2014 may have been a memorable year for some, but for the ad industry it could be one to forget after the Advertising Standards Authority revealed the top ten miscreants contained three of the most complained about ads of all time.
Leading the pack was Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorius ad, which offered odds on whether the former athlete would be convicted of murder. It attracted 5,525 complaints, securing the dubious honour of being the most complained about ad in history.
The ASA puts the rise in complaints down to social media, which has allowed members of the public to voice and co-ordinate their concerns about ads. Many of the complaints about the Paddy Power ad and the third most-complained about ad (The Sun’s ‘Win a Date with a Page 3 Model’) were coordinated via the online petition site, change.org.
Unlike last year, when only three of the top ten were actually banned, in 2014 seven were either banned, resolved or led to a wider industry investigation.
A big theme of 2014 was the rise of copycat websites, which mislead people by appearing to be official government websites. Two such cases appear in the list of the most complained about ads of the year. In response, the watchdog has conducted consumer research and worked with Government and search engine providers, to take firm action to reduce the number of misleading ads in this area.
The top ten are:
1. Paddy Power: Oscar Pistorious trial – 5,525 complaints – Upheld
2. Booking.com: Claimed to encourage bad language amongst children by using the word “booking” in place of a swear word – 1,768 complaints – Not upheld
3. Win a date with a Page Three girl, The Sun – 1,711 complaints – Upheld
4. Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, in association with The Royal British Legion – 823 complaints – Not upheld
5. The Save the Children Fund “birth” ad – 614 complaints – Not upheld
6. Waitrose “Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose” – 267 complaints – Resolved
7. VIP Electronic Cigarettes ad -199 complaints – Upheld
8. uk-passport.net, pretended to be official site – 188 complaints – Sector investigation
9. Unilever, Flora Buttery “wrestling” ad – 183 complaints – Not upheld
10. passport-uk.co.uk, another official-looking website – 177 complaints – Sector enforcement
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.”
To leave a comment please register – it takes less than a minute and is free of charge. You will also get our weekly email update The DM Report (to opt out contact firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are an existing user, please log in. If you have forgotten your log-in details please email email@example.com to get them reset!