The 10 most complained-about ads of 2016 are:
1. MoneySuperMarket.com. 1,063 complaints. Not upheld.
This TV ad featured Gary the bodyguard dressed in a suit and sunglasses, dancing at a rally. Viewers mainly complained that Gary’s moves were overtly sexual and not suitable to be seen by children.
The ASA judged that the ad would not cause serious or widespread offence to viewers and was generally likely to be interpreted in a humorous manner.
2. MoneySuperMarket.com. 898 complaints. Not upheld.
MoneySuperMarket’s ‘Epic Squads’ TV ad showed Dave, dressed in a suit jacket, denim shorts and high heels, and another character Colin, dressed in a fluorescent jacket and hard hat, engaged in a gang dance-off. Viewers said the ad was offensive and overtly sexual, while some people objected that it could be seen to be homophobic and could encourage hate crimes.
The ASA concluded that it was unlikely to provoke serious or widespread offence or to be seen as condoning or encouraging harmful discriminatory behaviour in real life.
3. Match.com. 896 complaints. Not upheld
This TV ad showed a women getting home from work to her female partner who removed her top and passionately kissed her. Complainants challenged whether the ad was sexually explicit and inappropriately scheduled.
The ASA judged that the ad would not cause serious or widespread offence and were satisfied that the scheduling restriction prevented it being shown in or around dedicated children’s programmes or those with particular appeal to children.
4. MoneySuperMarket.com. 530 complaints. Not upheld.
Another TV ad featuring Dave and Colin. This time they were alone in an underground car park and each performed dance moves in a bid to out-do each other. Viewers complained that it was overtly sexual and offensive because it showed what they perceived to be two homosexuals together.
The ASA ruled the ad did not break the rules as the majority of viewers would interpret the scenes as light-hearted and humorous.
5. Paddy Power. 450 complaints. Not upheld.
A re-run of the 2010 ad featured two teams of blindfolded men playing football. Viewers once again objected to the scene where it was suggested a man had kicked a cat that had run on to the pitch after mistaking it for the ball.
The ASA originally concluded that the majority of viewers would see the ad as humorous and not humiliating or undermining to blind people and did not reinvestigate.
6. Smart Energy GB. 253 complaints. Not upheld.
Smart Energy’s ad showed cartoon characters Gaz and Leccy being burnt in a toaster and hit across the room with a spatula, being cooked in a microwave and electrocuted by the television set. Viewers complained that it was excessively violent.
The ASA was the ad was clearly surreal and fantastical.
7. Paddy Power. 220 complaints. Not upheld
This ad showed a group of Scottish people singing about not qualifying for UEFA Euro 2016 but not minding because they could still bet on England to lose. Viewers said it was racist and encouraged anti-English views.
The ASA ruled the stereotypical features used to describe and depict the Scottish people in the ad would largely be understood to be a celebration of Scottish culture rather than malicious mocking.
8. Home Office. 216 complaints. Not upheld
The ad featured various scenarios which were unacceptable in a relationship and prompted complaints that it was sexist and irresponsible. Viewers complained that it implied only men engaged in abusive behaviours and that the ad might actually prevent male victims of domestic abuse from seeking help.
9. Gourmet Burger Kitchen. 195 complaints. Not upheld.
Complainants believed the ad was offensive to vegetarians and vegans with wording such as: “You’ll always remember when you gave up being a vegetarian” and “Anyone fancy a nice, juicy, 6oz lettuce?”
The restaurant took independent action to withdraw three of the ads.
10. Mars/Maltesers. 151 complaints. Not upheld.
The ad showed a woman in a wheelchair discussing her new boyfriend with two of her friends while enjoying Maltesers. She mentioned how her disability caused her to have a spasm during a romantic encounter, which her boyfriend ‘misinterpreted’. Viewers said the ad was overtly sexual and offensive to disabled people.
The ASA said the post-9pm restriction prevented children from seeing it and it was likely to be seen as championing diversity and disability, not ridiculing it.