Moneysupermarket.com's Dave stars in most complained-about ad again

Moneysupermarket.com's strutting Dave is back as the most complained about ad in the first half of 2017 with 455 complaints.

The ad, released last September sees its iconic strutting character, Dave, joined with a squad of fellow businessmen in heels facing off against Colin and his squad of builders. At the end of the ad, a female supervisor orders the builders back to work before performing her own dance routine. 

The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints that said the ad was offensive and overtly sexual and some people objected that the ad could be seen to be homophobic and could encourage hate crimes.

While the ad could be seen as distasteful by some, the ASA Council concluded that, given the overall content and tone, it was unlikely to provoke serious or widespread offence or be seen as condoning harmful discriminatory behaviour in real life.

A MoneySuperMarket spokesman said: "Our ads celebrate that epic feeling you get when you save money at MoneySuperMarket and our characters – particularly Dave, the iconic hotpant-wearing businessman – have become part of pop culture, generating countless parodies.

"We’re always looking for entertaining ways to deliver a serious message and while our ads continue to fuel debate, it’s important to note none of the complaints to the ASA have ever been upheld. The ad in question is also no longer on air as we launched a new campaign featuring He-Man and Skeletor in March."

The next two most complained about ads were Match.com's "Lesbian kissing scene" (293 complaints) and McDonald's "Dead dad" ad (255 complaints).

The ASA chose not to take action against either ad as Match.com's was deemed to not cause serious or widespread offence and were satisfied that the scheduling restriction. Meanwhile, McDonald's chose to pull its ad before the ASA launched an investigation. 

Fewer complaints, but more cases

Overall, the ASA received 13,131 complaints in the first half of 2017, 19.8% fewer than the same period in 2016. 

However, there were 11% more individual ads complained about, totalling 9,486 ads. 

The decline in complaints is due to the prominence last year of the Moneysupermarket ads, one of which alone gave rise to over 1,000 complaints, the ASA said.

TV continues to be the most complained about medium (5,127 complaints) followed by the internet (4,062 complaints). 

"We’re spending more time online, but the mass audience of TV ads means they continue to generate the most complaints," ASA chief executive Guy Parker, said. "Online ads account for the greatest number of individual cases, with the majority being companies’ own advertising claims on their own websites and social media spaces."

The ASA secured the amendment or withdrawal of 3,034 ads over the first half of the year, 88% more than the first half of 2016 - itself a record year.

"Whatever the issue and whatever the medium, we should all be able to trust the ads we see and hear. If an ad is wrong, we’re here to put it right," Parker said.

TV ads are rude, online ads are lies

The ASA found that there was a clear difference between TV and online ads in terms of the issues that prompt concern. 

The majority of complaints about TV ads are on the grounds of offence (3,439) rather than how misleading they were (1,677), while the majority of complaints about online ads concern misleadingness (3,673) rather than harm and offence (360). 

Overall, however, misleading ads continue to prompt the most complaints 8,195 (62%) and represent the bulk of the ASA’s workload (accounting for 76% of cases).

The reasons for these trends are explained by the differences in audience size and viewing habits for the two media, as well as the pre-clearance checks in place for TV.

"A large proportion of potentially misleading claims in TV ads are stopped before they’re broadcast; instead, subjective issues relating to harm or offence often prompt complaints from large audience groups. With online ads, complaints tend to be submitted by individuals drawn from smaller audiences and are more likely to concern truthfulness and fairness," the ASA said. 

Men complain more than women

Men continue to complain more about ads than women, making up nearly 60% of the complaints received by the ASA.

In total, men lodged 7,729 complaints compared with 5,031 by women.

There are also marked differences in the kind of ads complained about, with women complaining more about harm and offence (56% to 44% from men), while men complain more about an ad being misleading (70% to 30%). 

This year, leisure was the most complained about sector receiving 2,089 complaints, followed by retail, health and beauty, finance and finally and business.