ASA reveals most complained about ads

LONDON - Britons are most likely to be upset by ads that feature same sex kissing or offend religious sensibilities, according to industry watchdogs.

Campaigns with either lesbian or homosexual undertones, trivialise religion or have violent imagery dominate the most ten most complained about ads of last year, according to the Advertising Standards Authority.

A Gay Police Association national press ad, which featured a Bible next to a pool of blood to back its claims that religious motivation was behind most homophobic incidents, topped the list with 553 complaints.

Also in the top ten are French Connection, whose TV ad ended with two women kissing (pictured), and Dolce & Gabbana, which provoked complaints after a commercial showed a brief kiss between two men.

The ASA's ten most complained about ads of 2006:

1. Gay Police Association
553 complaints
Appearing in the national press, this ad pictured a Bible - in order to highlight a religious motivation behind homophobic incidents. Attracting complaints from such bodies as Christian Watch and the Evangelical Alliance Christian groups, the ad was perceived as offensive to Christians and discriminatory in tone.

Three out of the five issues raised were upheld, with the ad judged to be offensive, misleading in its suggestion that all incidents involved physical injury and in its statistical claims, which were never proven to the ASA.
Complaints upheld

2. HM Revenues and Customs
271 complaints
A national press ad depicting what appeared to be a self-employed plumber evading tax by hiding under the kitchen sink. The ad attracted complaints from a number of organisations and members of the public who considered that the ad implied self-employed people - plumbers in particular - were tax-evaders and was thus both misleading and offensive.

HM Revenues & Customs apologised for any offence caused and said they had amended the ad in light of the complaints. The ASA's investigation concluded most people would not infer from the ad that self-employed people were tax-evaders.
Complaints not upheld

3. Dolce & Gabbana
166 complaints
D&G's national press ad attracted complaints from those concerned about its glamorisation of knives and violence. One of the ads had appeared opposite a news article about a knife crime.

Despite D&G's protestation that the ads' highly-stylised approach was inspired by well-known paintings of the Napoleonic period, the ASA judged the advertisements to be socially irresponsible and offensive.
Complaints upheld

4. Motorola Ltd.
160 complaints
Complainants protested that this national press ad for a mobile phone was offensive and irresponsible, condoning knife-related violence and glamorising sexual violence.

Newspapers publishing the ad agreed with Motorola's defence that it was highly stylised, clearly a pun to coincide with the tagline ‘The Cutting Edge of Technology' and that it did not glamorise violence. The ASA decided that most readers of the newspapers would appreciate the intention of the ad.
Complaints not upheld

5. Carphone Warehouse
145 complaints
Complaints were received from competitors and members of the public about the lack of clarity and the potentially misleading statements in television and national press campaign.

Complaints were upheld on three out of the four issues, most notably on its claim to be ‘free forever'. The ASA decided the ad was misleading and the availability of the service was insufficiently explained.
Complaints upheld

6. French Connection Group plc.
127 complaints
French Connection's television ad featured a martial-arts contest between two women, symbolising the competition between fashion and style, which concluded with a kiss.

An investigation was deemed unjustified, with the ASA deciding that the fight was highly-stylised and, in context, did not reflect criminal assault. The kiss was also found not to be in breach of the code. Concerns that it should not be seen by children were also unjustified because of the post-watershed scheduling restriction.
Complaints not justified

7. Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd t/a Five US
99 complaints
Channel 5's strikingly simple poster campaign was deemed by a number of people as racist towards Americans and socially irresponsible in that it could incite racial violence.

The advertisers protested that such accusations were clearly only in relation to the first stage of their campaign and that the purpose of the Five US channel was to celebrate American films and television. The ASA judged that the poster was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or to incite racial violence.
Complaints not upheld

8. Kellogg Company of GB Ltd.
96 complaints
Objections to a Kellogg's television ad featuring a man riding a dog, claimed that it portrayed cruelty to animals and would encourage viewers to try the same stunt at home.

In their response, backed by the Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), Kelloggs said the ad was clearly surreal in nature, no dog was actually ridden during filming and that the already-imposed scheduling restriction would prevent children from copying the ad. The ad also featured a ‘Don't try this with your dog at home' warning.
Complaints not upheld

9. National Federation of Cypriots
93 complaints
This regional press advertising feature drew complaints from a human rights organisation, concerned it was offensive to the Turkish community and likely to incite racial hatred.

The NFC rejected the accusation that the image showing Cyprus was dripping with blood and protested that it denoted the line of division in the country. They said that ‘Do not forget' referred to all who had suffered including Turkish people. Complaints were not upheld except for the challenge that it was insufficiently clear that the ad was advertising material.
Complaints upheld

10. Dolce & Gabbana
89 complaints
Complaints into D&G's television ad, which showed a brief kiss between two males, ranged from protestations that it was unsuitable for children to objections that ads showing two men kissing were unacceptable at any time.

The BACC had approved the ad on the condition it was not shown around programmes aimed specifically at children and believed the ad did not require further restriction. The ASA agreed with the BACC.
Complaints not upheld