THE BOOK OF LISTS: The 10 most complained about ads

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 19 December 2003 10:30AM

1. Wrigley's Xcite: One for the record books. The commercial for the chewing gum brand showing a man appearing to vomit an entire dog provoked 863 complaints, giving it the dubious distinction of being the most complained-about British TV ad of all time. Viewers claimed the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO ad frightened children and some even said it made them sick. The Independent Television Commission ordered it off air.

2. Velvet

Prudes were galvanised into action by a Publicis commercial for Velvet toilet tissue showing a series of bottoms and the endline: "Love your bum." The ITC fielded 403 complaints claiming that the ad was offensive because of the nudity and that using bums to advertise toilet paper was in poor taste, especially around mealtime. The ITC didn't agree.

3. Take a Break

Care workers and three charities were among the 318 complainers about the spot for H Bauer's Take a Break showing a meals-on-wheels driver keeping an old lady waiting while she reads the magazine. The ITC accepted the Mustoes film was a cheap joke and should not have aired.

4. Toyota Corolla

Saatchi & Saatchi's ad for Toyota Corolla that takes place at a swingers' key party escaped a ban despite 236 complaints from viewers, many of whom complained about men being shown to find a woman unattractive because of her size. The ITC ruled that the film was unlikely to cause deep offence.

5. Foster's

Camcorder footage of a crocodile apparently biting off a bungee jumper's head led to 229 complaints that it was in bad taste and unsuitable for children. The ITC recognised that the humour in the M&C Saatchi spot, which warned "Don't lose your head", wasn't to everybody's taste but declined to ban it.

6. EasyJet

A national press ad for the no-frills airline featuring a pair of bikini-clad breasts and the line "Discover weapons of mass distraction" angered 190 people who claimed it was offensive, demeaning to women and trivialised the war in Iraq. The Advertising Standards Authority accepted it was Carry On-style humour which didn't warrant a ticking-off.

7. Renault Megane

A television spot by Publicis for the Renault Megane in which the line "shaking that ass" is sung repeatedly attracted 179 complaints to the ITC which banned it from being shown while children were watching. Protestors objected about use of the word "ass" in combination with wriggling bottoms.

8. Halfords

Halfords brought down the wrath of the Captival Animals Protection Society upon it after a TV commercial featuring tracksuited chimps and the line: "Because you pay peanuts we give you monkeys." It led to 175 complaints to the ITC as well as protests outside Halfords stores. Although the ITC refused to uphold the complaints, the company promised it would never use chimps in its ads again.

9. Lil-lets

The ITC threw out 161 complaints that the TV commercials for Lil-lets featuring Merv and Sandy demonstrating a new lubricated tampon were intrusive and offensive. It felt the work didn't go beyond the boundary of what most viewers would consider acceptable.

10. Gillette

A Gillette TV commercial showing a man running through an office in the process of being demolished by a wrecking ball was banned after 126 viewers complained it was reminiscent of the 11 September terrorist attacks. The Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO film, which appeared close to the anniversary of the atrocity, included a scene in which a man runs down a dust-filled stairwell as the building is torn apart behind him.

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This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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