Friday, May 11, 2007

Ad complaints

CMM News’ blog had a link today to the most complained about advertising of 2006 on BBC News. I couldn’t think of any particularly offensive adverts last year, but was interested to see what the public found to be unacceptable. So, what do you think the ads contained? - Gratuitous sex scenes? Violent crime? Racism? Well, not exactly…

The number one most complained about ad, with 553 complaints last year was from the Gay Police Association which claimed a link between homophobic attacks and religious motivation. Fair enough, I can see that this may be offensive to a wide range of people and unsurprisingly; in the main it was Christian groups who complained. The complaints were also upheld when the statistical claims were never proved to the ASA. But then you look at the most complained about advert of 2005 and indeed the rest of the top ten from 2006.

The advert which received the most complaints in 2005 – KFC’s advert in which people were talking in a call centre with their mouths full. It received three times as many complaints as the Gay Police Associations’ advert. Obviously it must be a whole lot worse to talk with your mouth full than to accuse religious people of inciting hate crimes.

And, the rest of this years list – tax-dodging self-employed people; suggestions of knife crime in a stylised fashion form; being “racist” towards America; riding a dog home to get cereal; and most shockingly – a same sex kiss! Call me crazy, but in a country where we can now have same sex partnerships, what is shocking or offensive about two people of the same sex showing their love for one another? It’s not as if they are having sex, it’s a brief kiss. Complaints detailed that it was unsuitable for children to see, why? In case they ‘turn gay’ after watching two men kiss? Ridiculous.

If you ask me, people shouldn’t waste their time complaining about advertising which is only mildly offensive to the hyper-sensitive, they should be complaining about adverts that are rubbish, which are actually an assault on our retinas and eardrums – like the Frosties adverts for example. No longer content with using good old Tony the Tiger alone, the last outing saw the most annoying young boy in history singing that “they’re gonna taste great!” This time round they may have gotten rid of the boy, but that’s only enabled us to realise it wasn’t just him that was annoying, it’s the song too. A definite contender for one of the worst adverts of recent years. Closely followed however by those horrible adverts where they are securing a loan of £25,000 over the phone without having to give any details of their current finances, only confirming that they have a house that can be repossessed, all the while chatting away to various members of their family and being overly-familiar with the person on the other side of the phone. And, then, they have to ask their partner, while they are on the phone, whether £25K is actually the amount they need – did you not discuss it before you got on the phone?!

Ok, ok, I digress. I know that the ASA cannot get rid of adverts solely on the premise that they annoy the life out of people. But wouldn’t it be great if they could? The point though is that, as Fish’n’Chimps points out “maybe we are too quick to detect double-meanings and imagined insults” nowadays. Consumers might actually have something to complain about if we brought back the “sex depravity, pornography and general sleaziness” which prevailed in advertising and offended in the 1970s. There’s no doubt that advertising has moved on from then, but I think perhaps that as we have tried to be less offensive and always, always politically correct, our skins have become a little thinner.

I’m not saying we should go about insulting people, but people should put advertising in the context it was meant and stop picking up the phone, or whatever medium they choose, to complain every time something doesn’t quite fit neatly into the box of what society has deemed ‘acceptable’. People, on the whole, are not stupid, they can see the concept behind the message and its link to what is being advertised, we’re not going to go out and try to slash people’s faces with our phones or ride our dogs home from work, even if I was still a child I wouldn’t try it (well, maybe the latter of the two, but not all the way home).

Come on!

You’ll find the whole list on the BBC News website
here. Have a look and see how many you think are offensive. Methinks some people have far too much time on their hands.

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