most complained about adverts

Covid passports and car crashes: These are the most complained about TV ads of the decade

Idk if killing the Go Compare man counts as light TV

I’m going to set you a challenge: Find something more painfully British than grassing an advert up to the ASA (advertising standards agency) and you’re officially a better person than I. It’s safe to say we, as a country, love to moan.

A few decades ago, some of the most complained about UK TV ads featured graphic clips of people not wearing seatbelts or accidentally setting fire to their houses pre-watershed. But NOW – anti-vaxxers complain in their thousands if a camera so much as catches a *glimpse* of a lateral flow test.

Business blog Sortlist has worked out the most complained about adverts of the decade so far – and some of these companies have played pretty fast and loose with the rules, it’s fair to say.

So, strap yourselves in. From a passport-wielding Santa to confusion over a takeaway, these are the most complained about TV ads of the decade:

1. Tesco: Santa’s Covid passport – 3,000 complaints

Tesco’s Christmas ad took the top spot for the most complained about advert of 2021. The very sight of an OAP with a Covid passport was enough to drive anti-vaxxers up the wall – even if that pensioner was actual Santa.

Gillian McKeith (who used to be famous for looking at poo on TV, now she just talks it) led the #BoycottTesco campaign back in December, claiming the ad was promoting “segregation” and decided everyone was “complicit” in… well, we still don’t really know.

Tesco responded to claims as they came in, saying: “We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the advert reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel.”

2. Booking right – 2,500 complaints

The fact that people actually complained about this is so booking hilarious. Holiday middle-man devised an amusing little ad where loads of people used “booking” as a replacement for something a lot more explicit. The trouble is, channels kept showing the ad between kids’ shows as well as films like Harry Potter and Paddington.

Over 2,500 people reckoned the ad was encouraging children to swear and campaigned for the advert to be taken off air.

3. Ryanair: Jab and go – 2,371 complaints

Okay, this one was a wee bit below-the-belt. I can’t believe they actually opted to go for the opening line of: “Vaccines are coming – so book your Easter holidays today!”

Ryanair received a whole host of complaints for this ad, as people believed the airline was trivialising the pandemic. Some complainants even branded the ad “misleading” and “socially irresponsible.”

4. Go Compare: Gino’s crash – 336 complaints

This one was genuinely weird, and wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in a road safety campaign. The 2019 ad for GoCompare saw the usually well-received character Gio Compario getting his car crushed by a tree. It was clearly made with the intention of being darkly funny – but the vibes were just off.

Road safety charity Brake! called the advert a “serious misjudgement by GoCompare” and were concerned it made light of serious accidents.

5. Deliveroo: No carbs before marbs – 300 complaints

Anyone who watches Gogglebox will remember this ad being played *constantly* every Friday night. But aside from the annoying characters – what was actually wrong with it?

Turns out, 300 people thought the advert “lied” about how many different cuisines you can get in one go. There was nothing in the clip to suggest each restaurant would have its own delivery charge (except the obvious white writing at the bottom), so people ended up accidentally overspending. Lol.

6. Photobox: Great Dane – 212 complaints

The RSPCA towed the line on this semi-problematic ad during 2017. The camera pans out to show a little boy riding a Great Dane, leading people to worry about the welfare of the dog. Photobox later clarified that the kid and his dog were filmed completely separately – and a vet was on hand in case any medical emergencies arose (for the Great Dane, not the child).

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