Shock, horror as charities fall out of complaints list

Charities have been usurped by Kentucky Fried Chicken as purveyor of the nation's most controversial adverts.

The Advertising Standards Authority last week published its list of the 20 most complained-about adverts for 2005 - and not one charity was to be found among them.

The British Heart Foundation's 'breathless' campaign, which showed a woman with a plastic bag over her head, topped the list in 2002. Barnardo's was top in 2003 for pictures of a baby with a cockroach in its mouth.

BHF's 'dripping fat' anti-smoking adverts came in at eighth place in 2004.

But it was an advert showing people singing with their mouths full of fried chicken that most upset the nation's sensibilities in 2005.

"Unusually, I don't remember talking about any charity adverts this year," said Donna Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the ASA.

"It could be that they are becoming less shocking, or that the public is becoming desensitised to it."

Andrew Nebel, director of marketing and communications at Barnardo's, denied charities had changed their approach. "There has been no deliberate aversion to using a powerful challenge," he said. "We are working on our next campaign and it's not part of the brief to run scared of ASA censure."

Barney Cockerell, creative director at ad agency WWAV Rapp Collins, whose clients include Cancer Research UK and the NSPCC, said the 2005 results were an anomaly.

"I haven't seen any evidence that charities are watering their ads down," he said.

Cockerell suggested that people were more likely to complain directly to charities rather than to the ASA.

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