Two charity advertisements in regulator's all-time top 10 for generating complaints

TV adverts by Marie Stopes International and Barnardo's, which were not censured by the Advertising Standards Authority, among most complained-about in 50 years

Marie Stopes International advert
Marie Stopes International advert

Two charity advertisements are among the UK’s 10 most complained-about adverts of all time.

The TV adverts, for the sexual health charity Marie Stopes International and the children's charity Barnardo’s, were among those that provoked the largest number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority in its 50 years of existence, the watchdog revealed today in its 2011 annual report.

The ASA did not uphold the complaints in either case.  

The Marie Stopes advert, screened in 2010, offered information and advice on reproductive and sexual health and prompted 1,088 complaints.

The ASA rejected the complaints on the grounds that the advert promoted an advice service, did not advocate a particular course of action and did not trivialise the issue of unwanted pregnancy.

The Barnardo’s campaign, shown in 2008, featured a girl being repeatedly hit around the head by her father, bringing a cycle of violence and drug abuse. It generated 840 complaints. The ASA said the advertisement, which was intended to raise awareness of domestic child abuse, was justified in using such strong imagery.

The most complained about advertisement was for Kentucky Fried Chicken and showed people singing with their mouths full. The complainants thought the advertisement, screened in 2005, would encourage bad manners in children, but the ASA disagreed and did not uphold the objections.

In 50 years the ASA has received about 431,100 complaints.

Although the overall number of complaints rose from 25,214 in 2010 to 31,458 in 2011, the number of complaints about adverts from not-for-profit organisations was down significantly.

Complaints about advertisements for non-commercial organisations, including charities, fell by almost 70 per cent, from 4,124 in 2010 to 1,281 last year.

The ASA’s remit was extended in 2011 to include claims made by organisations on their own website and other forms of social media.

Cases resolved by the ASA concerning non-commercial advertisements rose by 3.3 per cent, from 840 to 868 between 2010 and 2011.

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