Barnardo's, VW and Heinz among UK's most controversial ads

30 April 2009

LONDON: Ads from organisations as varied as Barnardo's, Volkswagen and Heinz were among those which produced the highest number of complaints from consumers in the UK to the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry watchdog in the country, last year.

The ASA received a record number of advertising-related objections in 2008, some 26,433 in all, up by over 9% on an annual basis.

(Subscribers to WARC Online can see more details about the UK's most controversial ads, including creative, by clicking here.)

Barnardo's campaign to raise awareness of domestic child abuse topped the list, with over 804 complaints, generally related to the "scenes of violence and drug taking."

However, the ASA did not uphold these objections, arguing the gravity of the issue "justified the use of strong imagery."

Volkswagen's ad featured a "singing dog," and the controversy surrounding Heinz's Deli Mayo TV spot resulted from a scene in which "'Mum' was kissed goodbye by 'Dad'," largely because "Mum" was "a burly Italian-American man with a five o'clock shadow."

To find out which other ads prompted large numbers of complaints to the ASA last year, click here.

Data sourced from ASA; additional content by WARC staff