Which of the countless adverts we’re bombarded with every day always gets you seething inside?

The Advertising Standards Authority has released its top 10 of the most complained about adverts in 2007 and the Department of Health was guilty of annoying us the most.

The Government’s “Get unhooked” anti-smoking advert generated 774 complaints for being offensive, frightening and distressing.

Although the ASA found the adverts were unlikely to cause serious offence or distress to adult viewers, two of the television adverts and the poster ads were deemed to have the potential to frighten and distress youngsters.

The rest of the top 10 are: Trident gum 519 complaints (racism); Rustlers 219 (sexism); MFI 217 (threat of violence); Quorn 181 (threat of violence); Coca-Cola 180 (distress and frightening to children); British Heart Foundation 122 (gratuitous nudity); SMA Nutrition 109 (misleading claims); PETA 68 (misleading claims and irresponsible messages); The Sun 56 (sexism).

It is easy to fall into the trap of wondering why those lodging the complaints haven’t got anything more constructive to do with their time.

We can create a stereotypical of outraged suburbanites just waiting to be offended by something so they can pen their Mr or Mrs Angry letter to the authorities.

Indeed, some of the complaints seem a little over the top.

This British Heart Foundation poster campaign, for example, drew complaints about the nudity from those claiming it it was gratuitous and irrelevant to the organisation’s main work and message.


Several people also complained that the posters had been placed near to schools in some areas. The ASA decided the nudity in the ad was not explicit as the men’s genitals were covered and it would not cause serious offence.

But a closer look at some of the other adverts in the top 10 and you can start to understand why people feel moved to complain – the Rustlers advert was blatantly sexist (and not very funny).

What I find more worrying is how so many adverts reflect certain trends in society and provide further signals and confirmation of the state we’re in.

The family in the Quorn advert are trying to be light-hearted, but just come across as loud, opinionated and uncaring.

But the biggest offender in this list and arguably one of the worst adverts to hit our screens for years were the odious MFI slices of modern life.

We have a flourishing yob culture that is rife across the country and is apparently getting worse as the majority of us are learning the hard way to avoid certain places after dark.

So why is it served up as “entertainment” in the form of prime-time adverts?

Quite what those creatives responsible for the adverts were thinking is beyond me. Quite why MFI thought the ads would paint them in a good light, especially after all its recent worries, is equally unfathomable.

Not surprisingly, the current MFI ads are as different as they could be from these recent offerings.

Are these television adverts slices of fiction with a fair bit of dramatic licence, or mini-documentaries about the UK’s Average Family?

Whatever the answer, it is going to be depressing.

Combine this with the majority of reality television – where ignorance is encouraged, celebrated and served up as prime-time television – along with info-tainment that never allows the facts to get in the way of “news” coverage and simply adds to the dumbed down attitudes.

That’s entertainment in modern Britain.

We do like to advertise our problems, we’re just not very good at tackling them.


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