Impious ads draw most public complaints to ASA

By John Tylee,, Friday, 29 April 2005 03:41PM

But the number of complaints against non-broadcast ads fell to 12,711 in 2004.

TV and print ads that offend people's religious beliefs provoked the most protests to industry watchdogs last year.

A press and poster campaign for Channel 4's series Shameless, which spoofed Da Vinci's The Last Supper, was last year's most-complained-about print ad, the Advertising Standards Authority said.

Meanwhile, a Saatchi & Saatchi spot for Mr Kipling mince pies, in which a woman appeared to be giving birth during a Nativity play, drew the second-highest number of complaints about a TV ad. While more than 800 protests against the film were upheld, the 264 complaints against the Shameless ad were rejected.

The public's concern about ads that appear to mock religion was revealed this week in the ASA's annual report, its first since its remit was extended to cover broadcast advertising last November. However, the number of complaints against non-broadcast ads dropped to 12,711 last year, down almost 11 per cent on 2003. The ASA also received 1,797 complaints about TV and radio ads.

The biggest outcry about TV advertising was provoked by the shopping channel Auctionworld, which was fined £450,000 and had its broadcast licence revoked, following 1,360 complaints about poor customer service, misleading price guides and delays in the delivery of goods.

Taste and decency issues accounted for 2,841 complaints about non-broadcast advertising, a drop of almost one quarter on 2003, while complaints about truthfulness dropped 8 per cent to 2,472.

One national press ad that fell foul of the ASA was for the Newspaper Marketing Agency. The ad showed a man impaled on a stiletto heel.

Ads promoting leisure activities, computers, telecom services, health and beauty and holidays and travel made up more than half of all complaints received by the ASA. But in the areas of food and alcohol advertising, complaints dropped by 40 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.

The improvement was mirrored in the direct mail sector. Last year, the figure fell almost 12 per cent.

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