In 2014, the ASA received (yet again) a record number of complaints. It attributed the record to an increase in:
the use of social media as a platform for promoting business; and "copycat websites", which replicate government websites in order to generate revenue from unsuspecting users. Notwithstanding the above, it is established reputable companies that account for the ASA's list of the "Top Five" most complained about adverts in 2014.
ASA's Top Five most complained about adverts and websites
Position Advert/Website Decision Complaints received in 2014 1 Paddy Power plc – "Oscar Pistorius Ad" Upheld 5,525 2 Booking.com – "It's 'booking' brilliant Ad" Not upheld 1,768 3 News UK & Ireland Ltd – "Win a date with a page 3 model Ad" Upheld 1,711 4 J Sainsbury plc in association with The Royal British Legion – "Christmas First World War Ad" Not upheld 823 5 The Save the Children Fund – "Charity appeal – women giving birth Ad" Not upheld 614 It will not surprise those who follow ASA adjudications to see that Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius advert received the most complaints in 2014 (the advert received nearly the same number of complaints as the nine next most complained about adverts combined). The advert (which appeared in The Sun on Sunday) has received widespread publicity. In summary the advert depicted the disgraced athlete as an Oscar Academy Award statue (Oscar Pistorius was at the time on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp). The advert contained the text:
"IT'S OSCAR TIME", "MONEY BACK IF HE WALKS" and "WE WILL REFUND ALL LOSING BETS ON THE OSCAR PISTORIUS TRIAL IF HE IS FOUND NOT GUILTY". (The advert is readily available online; a search for the term "Paddy Power" on Google Images presents the advert amongst the top search results.)
Unsurprisingly, the ASA decided to ban the advert, as it "incentivised betting on a murder trial", "trivialised the death of a woman" and "mocked the athlete's disability". Paddy Power was told that the advert must not appear again in its current form and was told to ensure that future adverts did not cause serious or widespread offence or bring advertising into disrepute.
The second most complained about advert (that was found to breach the...