A television advert from the first-aid charity St John Ambulance was the 10th most complained about advert in 2012, according to figures from the advertising watchdog.
The Advertising Standards Authority’s annual report, published today, says an advert that shows a man and his family dealing with his diagnosis, treatment and recovery from cancer, only for him to die by choking on a piece of food because nobody can give him the first aid that might save his life, was the subject of 144 complaints.
The ASA rejected the complaints and said that, although the advert was "distressing in its portrayal", the overall message was justifiable.
The most complained about advert was one from the website Gocompare.com, which shows the former footballer Stuart Pearce kicking a football into the stomach of the company’s opera singer character – it was the subject of 1,008 complaints.
Another Gocompare.com advert, in which the sports presenter Sue Barker shoots the opera singer character with a rocket launcher, was second on the list.
The complaints against both adverts were rejected.
Scott Jacobson, director of marketing, communications and fundraising at St John Ambulance, said: "The campaign reached about 50 million people through advertising, PR and social media – so if you look at the number of complaints in context, it’s a very small fraction.
"Of course, we’re sorry to those who felt our tactics were too harsh, but we hope those people realise that this campaign will save lives. The advert has been said to be shocking, but then it’s shocking when someone dies who could have had a chance to live."