In Brief

Top ten most 'offensive' adverts of 2015 revealed

Twerking in the street, bad language and Father Christmas bombshell drew the most complaints

moneysavingexpert.jpg

Advertisements featuring a man twerking, bad language and the suggestion that Father Christmas was not real were among the top ten most complained about UK commercials of 2015.

Topping the list, which has been revealed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is Moneysupermarket.com's "Epic Strut" advertisement, featuring a man dressed in hot-pants twerking as Sharon Osbourne looks on.

Viewers complained because of the man's "clothing and dance moves and because they believed the content was overtly sexual", said the watchdog. The ad did not breach the ASA code, however.

A campaign by Booking.com, which used the word "booking" in place of a swear word, also drew complaints. Some felt the advert would encourage swearing among younger viewers, although the regulator concluded it was a "light-hearted play on words that couldn't be mistaken for an actual swear word".

Other companies in the top ten include Paypal, which complainants said cast doubt on Father Christmas's existence; Protein World and its "Are You Beach Body Ready?" advert, which was accused of objectifying women; and a Department of Health anti-smoking campaign, featuring a man rolling a cigarette that contained flesh. 

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "Our top ten for 2015 will no doubt get people talking about whether the ads are or aren't offensive, but there are important issues at stake here. Advertisers must take care not to cause serious or widespread offence, but we don't play a number's game.

"While matters of offence can grab the headlines, the bulk of our work is the less glamorous task of tackling misleading advertising. That's why we're taking a more proactive approach to address the issues that affect consumers the most before complaints need to be made."

Here are the top ten most complained about adverts:

1. MoneySuperMarket.com - 1,513 complaints, not upheld.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"91276","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

2. Booking.com - 683 complaints, not upheld.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"91277","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

3. PayPal (UK) - 464 complaints, not upheld.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"91278","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

4. Booking.com – 407 complaints, not upheld

The television advert featured a man sitting on a boat before jumping off and swimming ashore. Complainants found it offensive due to its use of the word "booking" in place of a swear word.

5. Protein World – 380 complaints, not upheld, although the ASA said posters could not appear again in their current form.

6. British Heart Foundation – 219 complaints, not upheld.

Some viewers were distressed by this television and cinema advert showing a boy talking to the ghost of his father, who had just died from a heart attack.

7. Booking.com - 201 complaints, not upheld.

Once more, the "booking" wordplay offended in this advert about a couple meeting at a hotel.

8. Department of Health – 181 complaints, not upheld.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"91288","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

9. Nicocigs – 145 complaints, not upheld.

Parents were concerned the advert for electronic cigarettes would potentially appeal to children.

10. Omega Pharma – 136 complaints, upheld.

This television and YouTube campaign showed two women comparing their bodies before going on holiday. It was banned by the ASA for presenting "an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence". 

Recommended

TV review: Man vs. Bee
Rowan Atkinson as Trevor
In Review

TV review: Man vs. Bee

Is the Shipping Forecast reaching the end of the road?
An icebreaker cuts through a sea of ice, Southern Ocean, Antarctica
In Depth

Is the Shipping Forecast reaching the end of the road?

Pistol review: Danny Boyle’s sanitised but watchable punk drama
Still from the TV show of the band in front of a bus
In Review

Pistol review: Danny Boyle’s sanitised but watchable punk drama

Borgen: Power & Glory – the return of Birgitte Nyborg
Johanne Louise Schmidt and Sidse Babett Knudsen in Borgen: Power & Glory
In Review

Borgen: Power & Glory – the return of Birgitte Nyborg

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

When will paper £20 and £50 notes expire?
Paper banknotes
Business Briefing

When will paper £20 and £50 notes expire?

What happened to Zara Aleena?
Zara Aleena
In Brief

What happened to Zara Aleena?

The Week Footer Banner