The Annual 2004: The 10 Most complained about ads

1. Mr Kipling, "Nativity play", Saatchi & Saatchi

An exceedingly large row was created by Saatchi & Saatchi with its commercial for Mr Kipling's mince pies showing a realistic childbirth scene during a Nativity play. Ofcom upheld 797 complaints from people who said it made a mockery of a holy event, could upset children and was demeaning to women because it trivialised the act of giving birth. Manor Bakeries withdrew the ad. The Mr Kipling account is now with WCRS.

2. Virgin Mobile, "men's toilet", Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Personal service got a whole new meaning in this TV spot featuring a toilet attendant helping a man to urinate. Some of the 460 complaints claimed the film represented an indecent assault. Others said the exclusive use of black men amounted to racial denigration. Ofcom ruled for the ad after the agency argued that the spot communicated the idea of good service in a light-hearted way.

3. Land Rover Freelander, "starting gun", RKCR/Y&R

RKCR/Y&R was in the dock again after 361 people complained that its spot for Land Rover Freelander featuring a gun-toting housewife glamorised the use of guns. Some complainants also pointed out that handguns were illegal in the UK. Ofcom rejected the agency's claim that the spot's film-noir style made it clear it was a piece of drama, not reality, and banned it.

4. Trojan Condoms, "shared pleasure", Media Therapy

Trojan arrived on TV with a bang in every sense. The ad showed a woman apparently having sex with an unseen partner while a voiceover claimed the condoms were "designed to give you both a warm sensation". The ad drew 317 complaints that it was too explicit. Ofcom disagreed and ruled that it could be shown after the 9pm watershed.

5. Walls Sausages, "sausage dog", McCann Erickson

McCann Erickson's ad for Walls showing a dog fighting for a plate of sausages and jumping into a glass window was cleared by Ofcom despite 174 complaints. Viewers were concerned it would encourage animal abuse. But Ofcom declared it was "clearly exaggerated slapstick".

6. Channel 4 Dispatches

A Guardian insert for a Channel 4 Dispatches programme highlighting the shortcomings of the Royal Mail resulted in 162 complaints. The ad asked: "Did your post arrive this morning? If it did you were luckier than you know. Hundreds of thousands of letters now go missing each week, many of them stolen." Complainants claimed the ad was offensive and implied that all postal workers were thieves. The Advertising Standards Authority thought otherwise, saying the ad reflected the programme's content.

7. Muller Rice, "budgie", Publicis

Feathers flew at the laddish humour in this TV ad featuring a man with two pieces of bread chasing a budgie round a room with the intention of eating it. A voiceover asked: "If you don't fill that hole with Muller Rice, what will you fill it with?" The ad led to 142 complaints saying it condoned cruelty to animals. Ofcom didn't agree.

8. British Heart Foundation, "artery", Euro RSCG London

Ofcom ruled that the importance of message outweighed the consideration of viewers' sensibilities. A total of 88 people complained about the ad, some questioning whether the hard-hitting scenes could be justified, others asking if there was medical evidence to back the link between smoking and heart disease.

9. Adult Basic Skills, "gremlins", St Luke's

Definitely a case of not in front of the children. A total of 88 people complained that the ads were frightening for children. One film features an exploding gremlin shooting slime over the room. Ofcom imposed a 7.30pm watershed.

10. The Newspaper Marketing Society, TBWA\London

A spectacular own goal. The NMS's attempt at stand-out creative work backfired when its spoof ad showing a large woman's shoe with a man impaled on its stiletto heel provoked 81 complaints for trivialising violence, especially against men, and for being offensive, sexist and unsuitable for use. The ASA upheld the complaint.


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