DM complaints to ASA rise by more than half

Complaints about direct mail made to industry watchdogs increased by more than 50 per cent in 2001 - with one mailshot earning the title of the most-complained-about ad.

Direct mail accounted for 25 per cent of all cases dealt with by the Advertising Standards Authority, which saw a 17.6 per cent rise in the number of complaints made in 2001, according to figures released this week.

The US-based Health Laboratories earned the most complained about ad title with a direct mailing for its slimming pill, Berry Trim Plus.

The mailer, in which the firm claimed the product "even works for people who love to eat fattening foods", resulted in 211 calls to the ASA.

Upholding the complaints, the ASA branded the mailing as "one of the most flagrant and deceitful breaches of the code ever seen".

French Connection was runner-up in the ASA's league of sinners, attracting 142 complaints for a poster produced by TBWA/London and for its website,

Virgin Mobile was in third place with 125 complaints about a phony handwritten "aggressive and offensive

letter stuffed between the pages of national newspapers and purporting to be from a disgruntled subscriber to his mobile phone supplier. The complaints were upheld.

However, the ASA refused to back the 100 complaints against the fourth-placed ad, a poster for the lifestyle website QueerCompany, featuring two kissing women lying on a bed and headed: "Thank God for women."

Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Paddy Power ad featuring two elderly women crossing the road came seventh with 49 complaints, and was ruled against.

The ASA resolved a total of 12,589 complaints about a record 10,001 ads last year. Investigations were conducted into 866 ads resulting in 651 being changed or pulled.

Meanwhile, the ASA has rejected a complaint that an ad for the magazine Cosmopolitan which appeared in Campaign was offensive and degrading. The M&C Saatchi ad featured a pink bag opened to resemble a vagina and filled with folded bank notes.