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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2003, 12:29 GMT
Ad Breakdown: Review of the year
Magazine's review of advertising

Linda Barker
Oh Linda, what have you done?
Ad Breakdown looks back at the highs and lows of the year in advertising.

It's been quite a year for connoisseurs of advertising, good and bad. We laughed at the 118 118 runners (until we got bored with them and realised the service was a bit creaky).

We marvelled at that Honda ad, with the cogs and everything, and threw things at the screen whenever Linda Barker appeared.

Away from the TV, the curtain finally came down on tobacco advertising, giving way to calls for a similar ban on promoting junk food to children.

Here is Ad Breakdown's review of the highs and lows of 2003.

Advertisers tested the boundaries of taste and decency like never before in 2003. The year saw the two most complained-about ads in UK television history. A commercial for Wrigley's Xcite chewing gum topped the watchdog's list of shame, with 863 complaints.

Wrigley's Xcite
Wrigley's Xcited controversy in 2003
The ad, which appeared to show a man vomiting out an entire dog, was pulled after only a handful of airings. Viewers said it frightened their children and made them feel sick.

Incredibly, dear old Mr Kipling also managed to offend the masses. Some 570 viewers felt his latest commercial, which shows a woman called Mary screaming in pain as she gives birth, was in exceedingly poor taste.

The camera pans back to reveal the woman is actually the star of a nativity play. An audience member asks if Mr Kipling has ever directed a nativity play and is told: "No, but he does make exceedingly good cakes."

Easyjet upset 190 people with its "discover weapons of mass distraction" campaign, featuring a pair of bikini-clad breasts. The no-frills airline denied the ads were degrading to women and disrespectful to the families of people killed or injured in the Iraq war.

Surprisingly, the authorities agreed and refused to ban it, accepting it was an example "Carry On" style humour.

Barnardo's refused to back down
However, an ad by children's charity Barnardo's, featuring new born babies with syringes and cockroaches in their mouths, did not escape so lightly. The watchdog ruled it was likely to cause widespread serious offence.

But Barnardo's, which said it wanted to draw attention to the devastating effect of child poverty, was unrepentant.

A hotly contested category, but there can really only be one winner. Ad Breakdown readers called it "hugely irritating" and "incredibly cheap and tacky". The editor of Marketing magazine said the campaign was "universally loathed".

Yes, it's Linda "snip snip" Barker in that Curry's ad.

"Wins the award for the most irritating use of Linda Barker," sniffed industry bible Campaign, referring to the ubiquity of La Barker, who was also fronting campaigns for DFS and Tesco.

Ms Barker wasn't the only celebrity taking the advertising shilling in 2003. TV chef Jamie Oliver re-signed for Sainsbury's for a reported annual salary of 0.5m, while Gary Lineker (in the middle of a five-year 1.5m contract) helped propel Walker's crisps to the UK's number one consumer brand.

David Beckham
Becks: Biggest earner
But they were all out-earned by David Beckham, who trousered an estimated 15m over the 12 months for endorsing a grand total of 12 different brands, including Vodafone, Pepsi, Adidas, Castrol Oil, Brylcreem, Police sunglasses and Rage computer software.

On the international scene, Justin Timberlake was reportedly paid $6m (3.4m) to lend his vocal chords to the universally panned "I'm Lovin' It" campaign for McDonald's.

But he was probably trumped by Madonna, who starred alongside Missy Elliott in a worldwide campaign for Gap. The last ad Madonna made, for the cosmetics company Max Factor, netted her 4m in 1999, and her bankability has not dipped significantly since then.

The ad that scooped all the industry awards this year was Honda's "Cog" featuring a chain reaction of such intricacy it stood up to countless viewings and led to pub debates about how they did it.
Honda Accord
Honda: How did they do it?

The Guardian called it "the most talked about thing on television". It also generated controversy, with two Swiss artists claiming it was based on a 30-minute film they made in 1987.

Love it or hate it, the 118 118 campaign also lodged in the national consciousness - and spawned a potential law suit, when veteran runner David Bedford claimed the makers stole his image. The John Smith's beer campaign, featuring rotund comic Peter Kay, also scooped a hatful of awards and made us laugh.

It certainly proved popular with Ad Breakdown readers, as did Sony's dancing robot and the Anchor Spreadable campaign, with two quirky but unintelligible cartoon cows. It was that kind of year.

Compiled by The Magazine's Brian Wheeler.

What was your favourite and least-favourite ad of 2003? Here are some of your suggestions:

Best Ad: Sony Playstation with dancing robot & big-mouthed crow. Brilliant. Worst ad: Anything with Jamie Oliver is hard to beat, but the Doritos Friendchips campaign with the smug 20/30-somethings sitting around discussing their taco chips actually manages it!
Mike Masding, Poole, Dorset

Least favourite TV ad - Renault Megane Favourite TV ad - John Smith's with Peter Kay in the restaurant.
Lynn , Newbury

I live in a shared house, and the Linda Barker adverts have been met with unrestricted scorn. So much so that her quote "I like them, and I think you will to" has worked its way into our slang. As for the best, I'm a big fan of the Churchill nodding dog and his version of the Cliff Richard hit "Living Doll".
Steve Miles, London

Worst advert: the Smirnoff Ice one where the bloke loses his wallet and works as a `bog troll'. Even more annoying than the bog trolls themselves.
David, London

My favourite ad on TV at the moment is the Virgin mobile ad with Busta Rhymes - where he is trying to work the TV remote but it is making the blinds behind him open and close. and his fans get a shot of his butt when he pulls his pants down to go to the toilet. Brilliant slogan using the idle thumbs make devils work.
Tara, London

Only One Answer. John Smiths... Have it!
Lex, Surbiton

Best ad - 118 118 which spoofed the amazing Honda 'Cog' ad. I've only seen it once at the cinema but it had me in stitches. Worst ad on TV at the moment is another car advert (Honda again I think) which has four executives leaving a health club. What I want to know is - How come the 'quiet and modest' one gets to park right outside the front door?!
Chris S, Coventry

The Carling ad with the guy encouraging his wife to give birth, only to find he's in the pub with a mobile phone. Love it when he says "Big push, I'm running low on batteries".
Dave, Wishaw

My favourite has to be James Nesbitt's Yellow Pages ad... "Life is great, and life is good... cos I've got a girl and no-one likes you." It just makes me chuckle every time I see it (and I don't even like him very much). Worst has to be anything with Linda Barker in it. The woman is Satan with a pair of imaginary scissors.
Chris, Northwich, Cheshire

I liked the Mr Kipling advert. I thought it was really funny. Some people have nothing better to do... Who on earth is Linda Barker, anyway?
Antony Shepherd, Croydon

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