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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 01:20 GMT 02:20 UK
Controversial ads top 10
The Magazine's review of advertising

The last 12 months have seen a bumper crop of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.

The 26,236 complaints received in 2005, up 16% on the previous year, included those for the most complained about advert ever.

Here are the top 10 adverts by volume of complaints and the ASA's decision on them.


The most complained about advert in television history does not contain sex, violence or bad language. But call centre workers singing with their mouths full of Zinger Crunch Salads angered hundreds of parents battling to instil manners in their children.

KFC's Zinger Crunch Salad ad

The ASA, in its first full year controlling television and radio adverts as well as print ones, decided that "teaching good manners is a continual process that would not be undermined by seeing this ad".

It was a second occasion in front of the authority for KFC in three months, with its advert for mini fillets banned on the basis they were misleading about the size of the product.

Not upheld


Living TV L-Word advert
Complainants said this image was unsuitable for children

This poster campaign for an American drama about lesbians left complainants fuming that it was degrading to women, offensive and should not be seen by children.

The adverts show the lower half of a number of women's torsos, clad only in skimpy underwear. One of them carries the legend "girls allowed" and another "hello girls".

Not upheld


Pot Noodle horn

The latest in a controversial series of ads from the Unilever-owned convenience food brand sees a man join friends in a bar while trying to conceal a large brass horn he has in his trousers.

A struggle ensues and the protruding horn knocks a female companion in the face.

The advert ends with the slogan "Have you got the Pot Noodle horn?".

Unilever had been dragged in front of the watchdogs before, seeing a poster with the slogan "hurt me, you slag" withdrawn, and a TV commercial with the tagline "the slag of all snacks" banned before the watershed.

The ASA considered its latest effort suitable for showing after the 9pm watershed, despite the complaints that it was tasteless and offensive.

Not upheld


Mazda advert
Mazda showed mannequins becoming aroused

This advert shows a number of mannequins being taken for a ride in a new and spacious Mazda, with the company's familiar Zoom-Zoom theme song running over the top.

As the drive progresses, the viewer is led to believe that the mannequins are becoming aroused.

Complainants suggested the advert was offensive and that women were being shown as sex objects, but this was rejected.

Not upheld


Printed just days after last year's July bombings, these full-page national newspaper adverts sparked controversy.

The Ryanair advert

They featured a picture of Winston Churchill who was saying: "We shall fly them to the beaches, we shall fly them to the hills, we shall fly them to London!"

Complainants found this pastiche of Churchill's wartime speech crass and offensive, but the Irish airline said it was doing its part to stimulate tourism which had been shaken by the attacks.

The ASA accepted the company's view that the ads were intended to convey defiance against terrorism.

Not upheld


Jamster advert

The ubiquitous Crazy Frog adverts prompted a wave of complaints that they did not make clear that people who responded would be drawn into a subscription contract.

The annoying ring tones vendor was also criticised for appealing directly to children.



This advert for the high street banking giant seemed to make light of suffering an allergic reaction to an insect sting.

Barclays advert

In it a man is drinking a can of soft drink in the park, not realising there is a bee inside. He is stung and his face swells up, causing him to run to the side of the water and splash his face.

He falls in and emerges covered in pond weed and mud and after frightening people in an outdoor cafe is shot with a tranquiliser dart.

The connection to retail banking is not immediately apparent.

The ASA agreed with complainants who said serious offence would be caused to those who had suffered anaphylactic shocks. The advert was withdrawn.



Damart mailshot

The thermal clothing specialist sent out junk mail stamped with "settlement of outstanding items" and "final reminder" leading many recipients to believe there were debts that needed to be paid.

In fact, the letter was an invitation to take part in a prize draw.

The company admitted it had badly misjudged the letters and wrote to everyone who complained directly to them.

The ASA decided the mailshot was misleading and distressing.



Fanta Z advert

Again those concerned by the effect on children's manners were upset by this advert.

It shows a number of people drinking and then immediately spitting out the low-sugar drink.

The ASA concurred with the view that some people might copy the practice and the advert is now only shown after 9pm.



Channel 5 mailshot
This Channel 5 mailshot made some feel they were in danger

The broadcaster sent out a mailshot containing a dossier of crime information that suggested there was a serial killer on the loose whose victims all bore the same name as the recipient.

The ASA agreed with those who complained it was distressing and misleading.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

It strikes me that some people will complain about anything.
David Smith, Bournemouth

I received the CSI New York dossier and it was absolutely fantastic. So well done, Im keeping it packed it away as a collector's piece.
Richard, Belfast

I just wish I'd recieved the CSI:NY package. There has been an enormous amount of trash lately - the worst of which I believe to be the Cillit Bang adverts (though I understand that it was intentionally bad). However, there have been some wonderful adverts shown lately too - the Sound of Honda and the sadly banned XBox 360 'Bang' in which dozens of people engage in a massive imaginary gunfight around an American train station.
Chris Fox, Derby, UK

We follow our own code, whenever we're offended by advertisments we choose not to buy any of that manufacturer's products. The idea was inspired by the juvenile FCUK campaigns and amongst our family and friends we developed a derisory vocabulary for the individuals (traders and customers) who were so gullible in supporting that brand's insipid predictability. Great fun!
Jim, Cambridge

I do not understand why people are so quick to complain about such advertisements which are usually placed in between programmes which contain all of the above and far worse!
Andy, Brighton, UK

I'm not sure but I seem to remember that the Barclays Bee Sting advert was a copy of an eposode of the Simpsons where Homer gets mistaken for Big Foot after getting covered with marsh weeds and swallowing a load of bees. Are they going to ban the Simpsons too?
Heather Bingham, Wolverhampton

I didn't find the Channel 5 Serial Killer ad offensive at all - I was one of the 'lucky' ones whom received the promotional material through the post and promptly put it on Ebay when it started gaining controversy and made a tidy 20 from it all!
Sarah H, Leeds

Could we compaign to have the following banned - adverts for debt consolidation, end of life policies (any), electric shutters for houses, car insurance adverts featuring animals, any company who has its employees sing, fast food retailers with unrealistically happy staff, car adverts showing totally empty streets, and stairlifts.
Robert Leather, Manchester, UK

What exactly is the difference between the KFC ad (deemed not offensive) and the Fanta Z ad (deemed offensive)?
Michael Reeves, Sutton, UK

With the exception of the Damart junk mail there is nothing wrong with any of these adverts, those that complained should get a life and the ASA should get out more.
G Mariner, Barnsley

I can't disagree with those complaints that were upheld, but some that were not are gob-smacking! Ryanair: how is a crass attempt to profit from a terrorist attack using a World War Two caricature (by a company that isn't even British) morally acceptable? The L-word: so it's OK to treat lesbianism as something titillating, purely for the benefit of red-blooded males? We live in a very mixed-up world.
Simon Jackson, Barnet, Hertfordshire.

Christopher Graham, director general of the ASA, said: "Just because people find something rather distasteful doesn't really mean the Advertising Standards Authority should ban it." Why ask people to complain if nothing is going to be done about it?
Mary, Glasgow

They all seem to have done their job. Even if i hadn't seen them on TV, i have now.
Chris Hill, Telford

Doesn't it come across a little strange that, out of the top ten for number of complaints received, the five most complained about adverts didn't have the complaints upheld, but the lower five did? Is the ASA listening to people here?
Stephen Pereira, Oxford

I understand that censorship sadly exists but all the ads (minus the crazy frog) were funny and effective. If people do not want to see an advert then they can change the channel. If we have to endure advert breaks then at least the above made it slightly more bearable. People need to lighten up!
Lewis, Portsmouth

All of the people who complained about those 10 adverts should really take a long, hard look at themselves. Or maybe just go outside occasionally and interact with the real world. I'd far rather have ads that were a bit risque and challenging than the rest of the bland, stereotype reinforcing drivel that insults my intelligence every ad break.
Adrian Clark, London, UK

It's astonishing that the offensive "L-Word" advertisement should have been condsiered by the ASA as acceptable! It may delight those who read "Lad's Mags" - but they are not normally on public display. Why should sexual images be thrust down our throats at the behest of the advertising world? The trouble with the advertising world and the toothless ASA is that they keep pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable.
Stephen, Bedfordshire

Given how few complaints are actually upheld against misleading adverts the Advertising Standards Authority is a toothless tiger. How outrageous or untrue does an advert have to be before the ASA does anything about it? Clearly the ASA is too cosy with advertisers and doesn't work in the public interest.
Kevin Hall, Gateshead, UK

What has happened to the good old british sense of 'humor'. We appear to be turning into americans, all PC and suing each other. If you don't like it don't watch it, a simple philosophy.
James, Cardiff

I was in the early stages of pregnancy when the revolting KFC advert came out and it made me feel even more sick than I was already. The result being that even now, 5 months after the birth of my son, I cannot go near a KFC outlet without feeling queasy and can't forsee me ever fancying a KFC again!
Suzanne Edwards, Cheshire

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Which of these most annoys?
KFC Mouths Full
Living TV The L-Word
Pot Noodle Horn
Mazda Mannequins
Ryanair Churchill
Jamster Crazy Frog
Barclays Bank Insect Sting
Damart Debt Letter
Fanta Z Spitting
Channel 5 Serial Killer
1312 votes cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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