Chickens? Dancing? A Kentucky-Fried-themed rap? Throw them all together and you’ve got yourself the most complained about ad of 2017.
Of the 30,000 complaints made to the UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, last year, 755 of those were about KFC’s ‘The Whole Chicken’, seeing it top the chart for the second time after its hugely unpopular Zinger Crunch Salad ad received a whopping 1,671 complaints back in 2005 (and where it remained for another nine years).
However, despite concerns that it was disrespectful to chickens and distressing for vegetarians, vegans and children, the ASA ruled it was unlikely the ad would cause distress or serious widespread offence and KFC’s chicken was allowed to waltz away into the sunset (or wherever it was on its way to).
It turns out people aren’t big fans of men dancing in denim hot pants and heels either, with Moneysupermarket.com’s ‘strutters and builders’ campaign featuring in the ASA’s top 10 for a third year running.
Again, despite the 455 complaints made, the ASA didn’t think the ad was overtly sexual or possibly homophobic – like many of the complainants did – and let the ‘#epicsquad’ continue to dance their way to cheaper car insurance.
Dove’s controversial breastfeeding ads, which were criticised for using language such as ‘put them away’, received 391 complaints and were pulled by parent company Unilever before the ASA could launch an investigation.
McDonald’s also dodged interrogation and removed its TV ad featuring a boy and his mum talking about his dead father over a Filet-O-Fish, which generated 256 complaints.
Overall, two of this year’s top 10 were pulled before the ASA could investigate and none were banned – with the ASA noting that while many of the featured ad campaigns were seen across a range of media, TV ads garnered the most complaints, “demonstrating the continuing effectiveness of the medium at hitting mass audiences.”
“Tackling misleading ads continues to be the bread and butter of our work, but 2017 again showed that it is ads that have the potential to offend that attract the highest numbers of complaints,” said Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA.
“But multiple complaints don’t necessarily mean that an ad has fallen on the wrong side of the line: we look carefully at the audience, the context and prevailing societal standards informed by public research before we decide.”
Match.com (for its ‘sexually explicit’ kissing lesbian couple) and Maltesers (for its woman describing having a spasm during a romantic encounter with her boyfriend – despite its post-9pm scheduling) also continued to court controversy and made it into the list for the second year in a row with 293 and 92 complaints, respectively.
Remaining offenders include:
RB UK Commercial with its V.I.Poo spray and ‘unsavoury’ discussion of going to the toilet (207)
Currys PC World for ‘promoting materialism and equated Christmas with watching TV instead of Christianity’ (131)
O2 for its ‘sexually explicit same-sex kiss’ and subsequent screen smash (125)
Macmillan Cancer Support for ‘overly graphic scenes’ (116).
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