What makes ads controversial?

An advert showing a blind footballer kicking a cat across a pitch was the most complained about advert in the UK last year.

The Paddy Power advert prompted 1,313 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The total number of complaints received in 2010 was 25,214. Of those, 96% were from members of the public and 4% from the industry. The complaints focused on 13,074 adverts. Both figures are slightly down on last year.

Key grievances were animal cruelty and the sexual nature of some content. Following action by the ASA, 2,226 adverts were changed or withdrawn, it said in its annual report.

Here are the top 10 adverts of 2010, measured by volume of complaints:

1. Paddy Power - 1,313 complaints

Blind footballer

The television advert opens with a shot of a kit bag marked Blind Wanderers FC and two teams of blindfolded men in the middle of a game. A cat is shown running on to the pitch before a player takes a kick, followed by the sound of a thud and a loud meow.

People complained it was both offensive to blind people and could encourage animal cruelty.

But the ASA said it was surreal and light-hearted in tone. It decided the advert was unlikely to encourage or condone cruelty to animals or cause serious or widespread offence.

Complaints not upheld

2. Marie Stopes - 1,088 complaints

Marie Stopes was accused of advertising abortion, but did not mention it in the advert

This advert offered sexual and reproductive health advice, information and services. It attracted complaints for various reasons, including that it promoted abortion.

The ASA thought it was clear that the advertisers were promoting their post-conception advice service. It ruled that it was neither advocating one course of action over another, nor trivialising the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy.

In addition to the complaints detailed above, over 3,600 other objections were received, some prior to broadcast and some via petitions.

Complaints not upheld

3. Department of Energy and Climate Change - 939 complaints

Department of Energy and Climate Change ad

This advert showed a young girl being read a bedtime story by her father. As if reading a fairytale, a voice-over tells of the dangers of too much CO2. The story book shows black smoke rising up from an urban scene and forming a cloud of CO2 in the shape of a monster in the sky.

At the end the girl turns to her father and asks: "Is there a happy ending?" The voice-over states: "It's up to us how the story ends. See what you can do. Search online for Act on CO2."

People who complained thought the campaign was misleading and scaremongering. The ASA did not agree with the majority of the objections, but did uphold some complaints that claims in some of the press ads exaggerated the likelihood and impact of extreme weather conditions.

Complaints upheld in part

4. maritalaffair.co.uk - 420 complaints

Global Personals Ltd ad

This billboard poster for maritalaffair.co.uk showed a man's naked torso with a women's bra draped over his shoulder, next to the headline "HELLO GIRLS". It attracted complaints that it implied extra-marital affairs were acceptable and desirable.

It was clear that people found the concept of the website distasteful and immoral, says the ASA. However, it says it can only consider the content of the ad and not the service being advertised. The ASA felt the ad itself was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Complaints not upheld

5. John Lewis - 316 complaints

Dog in kennel - John Lewis advert

The advert shows a boy hanging up a Christmas stocking on an outdoor kennel, but then leaving his dog in the wind and snow. It attracted complaints about irresponsible pet ownership. Complainants objected that it suggested it was acceptable to leave a family pet outside in cold conditions.

The ASA disagreed, and felt the ad did not endorse or encourage animal cruelty or neglect.

Complaints not upheld

6. Oven Pride - 273 complaints

HomePride Ltd ad

Men and women complained about the gender stereotypes portrayed in this advert for oven cleaner. In it a voice-over comments "so easy even a man can do it" and ends with the line "no men were harmed in the making of this commercial".

The ASA ruled the advert took a light-hearted and comical approach to its portrayal of "traditional" gender stereotypes, and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Complaints not upheld

7. Irn-Bru - 204 complaints

AG Barr plc ad

This advert featured cute cartoon animals, cheery music and a Pied Piper type figure. But things turned more sinister when the animals were led to a butcher's shop.

It already had a restriction which meant it couldn't be shown around programmes targeted at children, but the ASA still received a number of complaints that it was offensive, irresponsible and distressing to children.

On balance, the authority felt the ad with its existing scheduling restriction was acceptable.

Complaints not upheld

8. Cardell Media - 185 complaints

This mailing consisted of a torn magazine or newspaper page with a handwritten Post-it note, which said: "Hi, I saw this and thought you'd find it useful - he's really good! J". Complainants said the mailing was masquerading as personal correspondence and challenged claims being made within it.

Their complaints were upheld and the advertisers were told to change their approach.

Complaints upheld

9. Marmite - 154 complaints

Unilever UK Ltd ad

Continuing their "you either love it or hate it" themed campaigns, Marmite ran two television adverts parodying party political broadcasts. The Hate Party, representing marmite haters, promised to "stop the spread" of Marmite, to introduce designated "Marmite-eating" zones across the UK and enforce a compulsory label change to "Tarmite".

The Love Party pledge to "spread the Love" of Marmite and promote its "delicious" taste and B vitamins. Initiatives included developing new ways for Marmite to help tackle society's issues, such as Marmite-flavoured pencils in schools to boost attendance.

Some complaints related specifically to the political aspect of the campaign and these were referred to Ofcom. Other objections related to racism, denigration and offence. The ASA felt the ads were delivered in a lighthearted way and therefore were not in breach of the rules.

Complaints not upheld/referred to Ofcom

10. Durex - 151 complaints

Complainants, who had seen this television advert for condoms before 11am and in the early evening, objected that it was offensive and inappropriate for broadcast when young children might be watching.

The ASA accepted it might not be to all viewers' tastes, but because there were no explicit sexual scenes or images decided its existing scheduling restriction, which prevented it from appearing in or around programmes targeted at children, were appropriate.

Complaints not upheld

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.