Bad Ads


It’s the 50th anniversary of the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK this year – the ASA, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a quasi-governmental organisation that was set up in 1962 to police the wacky and wonderful world of advertising and to crack down on any ads found to be offensive, misleading, or otherwise inappropriate. To celebrate their birthday, the Telegraph has helpfully released a Top 10 (or should that be Bottom 10?) of most complained-about advertisments in the UK (listed here.) The reasons these got into trouble vary – some were violent, one depicted nudity, two were disliked on religious grounds – one for discriminating against Catholics and another against non-Christians. Coming in at number 9 (with a total of 939 complaints) is DECC’s Act on CO2 campaign, aka “Bedtime Stories” – I complained about this one myself, as it was aimed at scaring little children witless about extreme weather events caused by people doing things like switching on lights. But the number one Bad Ad was KFC’s 2005 Chicken Zinger sequence, with call centre workers singing with their mouths full, which weighed in at 1671 complaints (not upheld!) Yes, the most notorious ad in recent British history was one which showed no sex, violence, religion or climate change but some young women singing through mouthfuls of fast food. I don’t entirely know what to make of that.

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