ASA rulingKFC ad sparks most complaints ever

26 April 2006

A Kentucky Fried Chicken TV advert showing call centre workers singing with their mouths full has become the UK's most complained advert ever.

Angry parents bombarded the advertising watchdog with nearly 1,700 complaints, over fears the ad would teach their children bad manners.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released the figure today, as part of a list of the top ten most complained about ads of 2005.

ASA rules cover 'widespread offence'

Despite the uproar over the KFC advert, and four others in its top ten, the ASA decided these ads didn't break any industry rules. The ASA won't rule against an ad on the grounds of bad taste, but can uphold complaints if it considers an ad has caused 'serious or widespread offence'.

The ASA said: 'Teaching good manners is a continual process that would not be undermined by seeing this ad.'

Last year the watchdog received a record 26,000 complaints about print and broadcast ads - a 16 per cent rise on 2004. Second place in the top ten was taken by a Living TV poster campaign for a lesbian drama series called 'The L Word', with 650 people slating the posters as offensive and degrading to women.

Pot Noodle, Mazda and Ryanair

A Pot Noodle TV ad showing a man trying to conceal a brass horn in his trousers and a Mazda TV ad portraying a female mannequin getting sexually aroused during a car ride also attracted anger.

But the ASA ruled these three, and a Ryanair newspaper ad headlined 'London fights back', which appeared just eight days after the London tube bombings, didn't fall foul of its rules. Viewers had claimed Ryanair was showing disrespect, but the ASA said it was showing defiance against terrorism.

The ASA did rule against the company behind the notorious Crazy Frog adverts for mobile phone ringtones. Almost 300 people complained that the TV ads targeted children and didn't explain it was a subscription service. The watchdog ruled the ads could no longer be shown before the 9pm watershed.

Fanta Z and Barclays

Despite its stance on KFC and bad manners, the ASA ordered that a Fanta Z TV ad, in which actors spat out the drink, should be moved to a post-watershed slot over fears it would be copied by children.

A Barclays ad showing a man having an adverse reaction to an insect sting, a Damart mailing which implied that recipients were in debt and a 'distressing and misleading' Channel 5 mailing suggesting a serial killer was on the loose were also found to have breached the rules.

In this month's Which?, ASA boss Christopher Graham is interviewed about the watchdog's powers, and explains how it is 'not a taste regulator'.

The top ten most complained about ads of 2005:

  • 1. KFC - 1,671 complaints. Not upheld
  • 2. Living TV - 650 complaints. Not upheld
  • 3. Pot Noodle- 620 complaints. Not upheld
  • 4. Mazda - 425 complaints. Not upheld
  • 5. Ryanair - 319 complaints. Not upheld
  • 6. Jamster (Crazy Frog) - 298 complaints. Upheld
  • 7. Barclays Bank - 293 complaints. Upheld
  • 8. Damart - 273 complaints. Upheld
  • 9. Fanta Z - 272 complaints. Upheld
  • 10. Channel 5 - 197 complaints. Upheld