A poster showing a naked couple more interested in reading than
having sex was Britain’s most complained-about ad last year.
A total of 312 people protested to the Advertising Standards Authority,
claiming that the M&C Saatchi ad for bol.com, the online bookstore, was
pornographic, gratuitous and unsuitable for children.
But the ASA threw out the complaints as well as refusing to back calls
for the banning of three more of the eight most controversial ads of
Also given the all-clear was a poster for the film Austin Powers: The
Spy Who Shagged Me, which received 310 complaints.
But the ASA ordered the withdrawal of Mother’s ’offensive and insulting’
campaign promoting the chat show hosted by the ’shock jock’ Howard Stern
on the Bravo channel.
The ASA received 238 complaints about the posters, making the campaign
the third most complained about during the year.
The posters were based on some of the show’s most outrageous quotes,
including the line that ’An ugly man with no money might as well cut off
However, it declined to act on the 187 complaints - many from clergymen
- about a poster for the Paramount Comedy Channel which ran just before
Easter last year and parodied the Turin Shroud.
Ten campaigns accounted for 12 per cent of the 12,141 complaints logged
by the ASA last year - a rise of less than 1 per cent on 1998 -against
8,617 ads, according to its annual report.
Of the 1,812 ads investigated, 851 were found to have broken the
Direct mail proved the ASA’s biggest headache last year, attracting 19
per cent more complaints than in 1998.
The problem was made worse by the one in five complaints against
overseas mailings, many of which encouraged people to send money abroad
on the pretext of winning huge sums of money.
ASA executives say they are working closely with their counterparts in
the US, Australia and Canada to stem the tide of rogue mailings and that
their efforts have resulted in criminal actions being taken against some