God bus advert sparks more complaints than sex and violence

28th May 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority has revealed the identity of the most complained about adverts last year, with gripes over religious claims beating more traditional protests about sex and violence to the top slot. 

In 2009, some 1,204 atheists objected to claims by The Christian Party that "There definitely is a God" as they said that such statements could not be substantiated. The ASA was unable to rule on the issue, however, because the advert was put out by a political party, which meant that it was outside of the regulator's remit.
Next on the list came Volkswagen. It received 1,070 complaints for showing graphic scenes in its TV ads of a man fighting clones of himself alongside the tag line 'Sometimes, the only one you have to beat is yourself'. The advert was deemed unsuitable to be shown before the 9pm watershed.
Third in the league table, however, was HomePride. It received 804 protests for its TV advert for an oven cleaner, which carried the strap line, "So easy, even a man can do it." The ASA ruled that the advert was tongue-in-cheek, however, and did not uphold claims that it was offensive.
But TV was the most complained about advertising medium in a general sense. Gripes here, according to the ASA's newly released annual report, rose by 17% to a total of 13,109 last year, although the number of individual adverts causing upset fell by 3% to 4,330. Online advertising came in second with 3,546 complaints about 2,823 ads, down 1% on 2008, while poster adverts received 2,774 protests for 589 ads, up a huge 101%.
The non-commercial sector was likewise the most complained about (5,459, up 126% on the previous year), but ranked only fifth in the number of adverts that generated anger. Top of the list here was the leisure sector. It put out 2,664 ads, which between them led to 3,774 complaints.
The biggest cause of unhappiness, meanwhile, was the misleading nature of individual messages (62% or 14,046 complaints about 9,218 ads) - although offensiveness was the lead cause of complaint in the broadcast advertising category.

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