The television advert broadcast in 2005 – which showed call centre workers singing with their mouths full – attracted a record 1,671 complaints. Most viewers complained that the advert encouraged bad manners among children, said the watchdog.
But the ASA ruled that although it was ''not to everyone's taste'', it was unlikely to change children's behaviour or undermine parental authority.
ASA chairman, Lord Smith of Finsbury said: “Our top 10 most complained about ads of all time certainly reveal what gets the public talking. But even more important is the less glamorous day-to-day action we take to protect consumers from misleading advertising.
Up for the task
“Our commitment for the next 50 years will be the same as for the last: to keep UK ads legal, decent, honest and truthful. We’re up for the task.”
Overall, nearly 80% of cases dealt with by the ASA concern misleading advertising and 20% about harm and offence, it said.
Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, said: “The advertising industry in the UK is world renowned for its creativity and innovation, but also for abiding by the rules that are designed to protect consumers. As an effective and well respected regulator, the ASA plays a crucial role in enabling responsible advertising to flourish.”
ASA food rulings this year include:
- A judgement against Kelllogg for making “misleading” claims on its Coco Pops website that sugar was unrelated to health or obesity. To read the judgement, click here.
- A ruling allowing Kellogg to continue using a super-hero themed Facebook game to market a product campaigners claimed contained too much sugar. For more information, click here.
- A judgement approving Mars’ use of Twitter endorsements from Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and glamour model turned business woman Katie Price. To read the ruling, click here.
Meanwhile the second most complained about advert in the ASA’s 50-year history was from the Auction World television shopping channel, which attracted 1,360 complaints in 2004. Shoppers complained about the channel’s poor customer service, misleading guide prices and delivery delays.
TV watchdog Ofcom later issued a fine and revoked the channel's broadcasting licence.
The third most unpopular advert was for bookmaker Paddy Power in 2010. This advert – showing a cat being kicked across a pitch by a blind football player – attracted 1,313 complaints.
To read the annual report, click here.
ASA in numbers
- Dealt with 431,000 complaints over 50 years.
- Last year more complaints than ever: 31,458 complaints about 22,397 ads.
- In 2011, a record 4,591 ads changed or withdrawn.
- In March 2011, our remit extended to cover firm’s own advertising on their own websites and in other social media they control leading to 71% rise in cases.
- Last year dealt with 7,195 online remit complaints about 6,631 ads.