THE BOOK OF LISTS: The 10 Most complained about ads

1. Freeserve

A bunch of ungainly nudists with their naughty bits covered by slogans

was meant not only to raise smiles, but drive subscription levels for

the UK's biggest internet service provider. Unfortunately, more than 200

viewers didn't see the funny side of so much cellulite in the M&C

Saatchi campaign and complained to the Independent Television


2. French Connection

The clothing company, now the perpetual bete noire of the Advertising

Standards Authority, found itself back in trouble again with its

"fcukinkybugger" poster campaign created by TBWA/ London. A total of 141

people complained that the advertisements were offensive. The ASA agreed

and has ordered French Connection to submit all of its posters for

pre-vetting for the next two years.

3. Pampers

Viewers settling down with their TV dinners suddenly lost their

appetites when a commercial for Pampers Total Care described how its

nappies were designed "to handle pee but also soft poo", accompanied by

some graphic graphics. Although 135 people complained the ITC refused to

ban the Saatchi & Saatchi ad.


The RSPCA's parody of a toy commercial turned from mawkish to horrific

when "My little puppy" providing "hours of fun for all the family" ended

up in a holdall at the bottom of a canal. The endline was: "Pets aren't

toys." The result was 130 complaints to the ITC that the AMV BBDO ad was

unnecessarily distressing. The ITC refused to ban it.

5. Virgin Mobile

A phoney handwritten letter stuffed between the pages of national

newspapers and magazines purported to be from a disgruntled subscriber

to his mobile phone company. Announcing he was switching to Virgin

Mobile, the writer told his erstwhile supplier: "You can take your

contract and shove it where the phone don't ring." The ASA backed the

124 complaints claiming the insert was offensive and not well enough

identified as advertising material.

6. Ikea

The Swedish retailer's TV campaign featuring a Mafia-style trio

appearing to intimidate householders into visiting its stores was

tasteless and frightening, according to the 122 people who complained to

the ITC. The watchdog said it was merely dry humour and declined to

order the St Luke's work off air.

7. QueerCompany

A poster for a lifestyle website featuring two women lying on a bed and

kissing and headed, "Thank God for women", provoked 99 complaints to the

ASA. However, it refused to back claims that it was offensive and

unsuitable in a medium seen by children.

8. Carling

A Leith Agency's commercial in which a woman tricks a man into giving up

his pint of Carling by pretending to remove a false eye and dropping it

into his glass wasn't a joker for 95 people who complained it was

tasteless and mocked disabled people. The ITC offered sympathy but

declined to take action.

9. Hewlett Packard

Transport pressure groups and unions were united in their condemnation

of a commercial featuring a crowd of children pelting a tram with

snowballs. The ITC agreed with the 95 people who complained that the

Publicis ad condoned anti-social and potentially dangerous


10. Health Laboratories of North America

The ASA fielded 83 complaints from people unimpressed with the

extravagant claims made in a mailer for the slimming product Berry Trim.

"Even works for people who love to eat fattening foods," was among the

headlines. The ASA was equally suspicious and backed the complaints.