A KFC advert featuring a chicken dancing as it headed to slaughter has been revealed as the most complained about ad of 2017.
The fast food campaign attracted 755 complaints that it was disrespectful to chickens and distressing for vegetarians, vegans and children.
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) did not ban the KFC campaign after deciding it did not include any explicit references to animal slaughter and was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ASA, who today released the most complained about ads of last year, received a total of 29,997 complaints about ads in 2017.
Only two of the 10 ads that attracted the most complaints were removed from media – one for Dove, discussing breastfeeding in public, and the second for McDonald’s, featuring a boy and his mother talking about his dead father – with both companies swiftly cutting short the campaigns themselves in response to public outcry.
The ASA decided that each of the remaining eight ads had not crossed the line on offensiveness and so did not uphold the complaints.
Here’s a list of the top 10 most complained about ads of 2017:
1. Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Ltd
755 Complaints – Not upheld
2. Moneysupermarket.com Ltd
455 Complaints – Not upheld
Many found the ad to be offensive on the grounds that it was overtly sexual and possibly homophobic. The ASA thought the character’s movements would generally be seen as dance moves and not in a sexual context. The ASA also thought most viewers would recognise the ad’s intended take on humour. It was ruled it was unlikely to condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour.
3. Unilever UK Ltd (Dove)
391 Complaints – not investigated; ads removed by Unilever
Dove produced a series of ads that contained statistics and opinions about breastfeeding in public. Many criticised the language, such as “put them away”, as it might encourage criticism of breastfeeding. Dove issued an apology and pulled the ads and amended their website.
4. Match.com International Ltd
293 Complaints – not upheld
Match.com’s ad, starring a lesbian couple kissing passionately, appears again in the ASA’s list of most complained about ads. Similar complaints appeared last year, when it was number three on the list, about whether the ad was too sexually explicit for children to see.
5. McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd
256 Complaints – not investigated; ads removed by McDonald’s
McDonald’s produced a TV ad featuring a boy and his mother talking about his dead father. The ad attracted criticism that it was trivialising grief, was likely to cause distress to those who have experienced a close family death and was distasteful to compare an emotive theme to a fast food promotion. The fast food chain issued an apology and pulled the ads.
6. RB UK Commercial Ltd (V.I.Poo)
207 Complaints – not upheld
A fictional Hollywood starlet shares her best kept secret on how to maintain good toilet etiquette – by using the V.I.Poo spray, an air freshener. Many people found the discussion of going to the toilet unsavoury. It was ruled that the ad was a light-hearted way of introducing the product and we didn’t consider its reference to the “devil’s dumplings” likely to break our rules on offence.
7. DSG Retail Ltd (Currys PC World)
131 Complaints – not upheld
This was a TV ad about spending Christmas in front of the TV. Complainants believed the ad was offensive because it promoted materialism and equated Christmas with watching TV instead of Christianity.
The ASA thought the ad was light-hearted and was meant to be humorous. The regulator said the ad did not ridicule or denigrate Christians or Christianity, so was unlikely to offend on those grounds.
8. Telefonica Ltd (O2)
125 Complaints – not upheld
O2’s ad about free screen replacements stirred complaints when it featured two men kissing and breaking one of the couple’s phone screens when he was pressed onto a table by the other man. Many felt the scene was too sexually explicit and scheduled inappropriately at times when children were likely to be watching. Some also felt the portrayal of a same-sex relationship was offensive to their religious beliefs.
The ASA noted that the scene in question was brief and did not contain any graphic or overly sexual imagery. It was ruled that it did not require a scheduling restriction and the depiction of a gay couple would not cause serious or widespread offence,
9. Macmillan Cancer Support
116 Complaints – not upheld
A TV ad for Macmillan Cancer Support included fast-moving scenes of a father talking to his daughter, receiving chemotherapy, vomiting in a sink, sitting slumped in a bath, and crying in a car before being comforted by a nurse. People complained that the imagery was overly graphic and distressing to viewers. The ASA believed it addressed the serious nature of the illness appropriately.
10. Mars Chocolate UK Ltd (Maltesers)
92 Complaints – not upheld
Many continued to find the featured woman, who described having a spasm during a romantic encounter with her boyfriend, to be offensive and overly sexual. Some also felt it was offensive to portray the woman, who was in a wheelchair, in this manner.
The ASA found the women’s conversation to be light-hearted and didn’t think the allusion to the woman’s romantic encounter would cause serious or widespread offence. On the matter of portraying the woman in a wheelchair in this manner, we believed the ad was championing diversity.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Tackling misleading ads continues to be the bread and butter of our work, but 2017 again showed that it is ads that have the potential to offend that attract the highest numbers of complaints.
“But multiple complaints don’t necessarily mean that an ad has fallen on the wrong side of the line. We look carefully at the audience, the context and prevailing societal standards informed by public research before we decide.”