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Top 10 Adverts Everyone Complained About

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: James Seton
Ofcom was inundated as soon as these ads aired. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Adverts Everyone Complained About. For this list, we’re rounding up those infamous ads from British TV which caused all sorts of outrage amongst UK audiences. Using violence, bad language and various shock tactics, they were supposed to inspire us to buy things. Instead, they triggered hundreds to phone up (and write in) to officially complain. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Adverts Everyone Complained About


Ofcom was inundated as soon as these ads aired. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Adverts Everyone Complained About.

For this list, we’re rounding up those infamous ads from British TV which caused all sorts of outrage amongst UK audiences. Using violence, bad language and various shock tactics, they were supposed to inspire us to buy things. Instead, they triggered hundreds to phone up (and write in) to officially complain.

#10: The Fight
Volkswagen (2008)



Taking its inspiration from “The Matrix”, here we see a VW engineer fight off a series of violent clones of himself. The concept was meant to demonstrate how the company’s designers push themselves in pursuit of perfection, but the relentless violence prompted hundreds of complaints. Advertising watchdogs ultimately insisted that it should only be shown after the 9pm watershed, though even late-night viewers may have wondered why a frenzied factory fistfight should make them buy a new hatchback?

#9: Booking.yeah!
Booking.com (2015)


This notorious ad campaign for accommodation site Booking.com shows holidaymakers tense with anticipation as they approach their hotel room - and then overjoyed when their luxury lodgings are finally revealed. But the promo’s punchline hinges on a highly suggestive delivery of the brand name. Despite thousands of complaints, the ad escaped a ban as the word 'booking' was said clearly and distinctly - regardless of the obvious meaning. Which was booking annoying for some viewers.

#8: Bedtime Stories
Department of Energy and Climate Change (2009)


A government department promoting clean energy might seem an unlikely advertising offender, but the DECC’s TV tactics unleashed a perfect storm of criticism. The controversial ad showed a father reading his child a frankly terrifying bedtime story - which predicts ecological doom in the near future. While it aimed to tackle the public’s lack of interest in climate change, it was ultimately accused of scaremongering - leading to anger from groups claiming that the ad had a political message.

#7: The Call Centre
KFC (2005)


Next, there are no scenes of graphic violence or obviously sexual imagery… It takes only bad table manners to push us over the edge. One of the UK’s most hated ads ever was a campaign for KFC's Zinger Crunch Salad, in which call centre workers sing through mouthfuls of chicken. Complaints arrived by the family-bucketload from parents claiming that the ad set a poor example - with a side order of upset call-centre workers claiming it insulted their job. It’s finger lickin’ offensive!

#6: Orange Man
Tango (1992)


When this ad proved popular in the 1990s, it really did damage people's health. Featuring an orange pot-bellied genie ambushing an unsuspecting Tango drinker with a double-handed headslap, it actually inspired schoolkids across the country to copy the move, with eardrum-bursting results. A later version of the ad tried to tone down the violence by replacing the slap with a kiss, but it was too late – the UK had been Tango’d and ‘happy-slapping’ was born.

#5: Dog Breath
Wrigley’s (2003)


Presenting its products as the ideal remedy for bad behaviour, Wrigley’s ‘Dog Breath’ TV ad shows a kebab-smeared lad awakening after a night out. He then regurgitates a scruffy full-sized dog – as you do. Thanks to prime-time advertising spots, the ad was seen by millions of people, leading to hundreds of complaints from queasy viewers and parents of frightened children. Wrigley’s were swiftly collared by ad watchdogs, who restricted the commercial to later viewing.

#4: Desperate Dan
Pot Noodle (2002)


In an attempt to connect with a mid-20s audience, Pot Noodle unveiled Desperate Dan, in 2002 – a character who’s bored with dreary sandwiches and yearns for a dirtier, more dangerous snack. His quest takes him to a succession of seedy nightspots – where he eventually finds release with instant noodles and a willing accomplice. But viewers were incensed by the sexual imagery, and the tagline; ‘The Slag Of All Snacks’, earned this ad a hard slap from TV regulators.

#3: The Whole Chicken
KFC (2017)


The fast food giants are at it again, for an ad centred on sassy chickens strutting to a rap tune. But A) it enraged animal rights groups, and B) it confused its target audience - who were happy enough eating a Zinger burger, but apparently didn’t want it to do a dance beforehand. Animal rights campaigners suggested that the company show how its chickens are really processed instead, while some KFC customers even questioned eating meat at all after seeing the ad. A misfire, on all counts.

#2: Favourites
McDonald's (2017)


Can a deep-fried fish sandwich help ease the pain of losing a parent? Well, according to McDonald's, it's worth a try... In this commercial for the fast-food chain, a boy asks his mother about the father he never knew. The glum son promptly cheers up when told of his dead dad's preference for the Filet-o-Fish. The ad was battered with complaints, and promptly banned for using a serious issue to promote junk food. Meanwhile the unloved Filet-o-Fish is yet to find a plaice in our hearts…

#1: Blind Football
Paddy Power (2010)


When it comes to causing offence, bookmakers Paddy Power are always a safe bet. More than a thousand viewers complained about this advert, in which a team of blindfolded footballers play a chaotic match. To add injury to insult, the promo also featured a cat on the receiving end of a free kick. But angry viewers were nutmegged by Paddy Power’s response - the ad featured members of the England Blind Football Team, and claims that it encouraged animal cruelty were rejected.
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