It’s no surprise that the most controversial advertisement of 2013 happened to feature an objectified woman with a seemingly seductive plea to the viewer. She’s heard saying “I want you to get it out. I want to see it. Feel it. Hold it. Put it in my mouth. I want to see how great it tastes” – which, funnily enough, turns out to be a simple request for an e-cigarette. Using sex to sell a product – that’s never been done before.
After 937 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, it was decided the ad would only be allowed airtime after 11pm.
Coming in second was the ‘End Marmite Neglect’ parody. This spot portrayed a rescue team working throughout the UK to save jars of Marmite from their neglectful owners leaving them forgotten in the backs of their pantries. It earned itself a stout 738 complaints due to the perceived trivialisation of animal rescue efforts it created.
It was decided, however, that the spot did not actually cause widespread offence – often, it was simply found to be entertaining.
The ‘Go Home’ campaign, courtesy of the Home Office, took fourth place for its clear offensiveness. It commissioned vans to travel throughout London emblazoned with images of handcuffs and the words “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.” Along with this, they also included announcements of the number of successful daily arrests made in the areas they were frequenting.
Yet despite its offensiveness, the advertisement actually ended up being banned for the insubstantiality of the number of arrests it was claiming.
The list (featured below in its entirety) was announced in the ASA’s annual report, spanning the entire 2013 year.
31,136 complaints were received by the authority over 18,580 total advertisements last year. Of this number, over 4,000 of them ended up banned. Interestingly enough, the year 2012 saw 12.5 per cent fewer bans on advertisements and actually accumulated a slightly larger amount of complaints overall. Apparently viewers are becoming more tolerant, but the ASA is not.
1) VIP – 937 complaints upheld in part.
2) Marmite’s ‘End Marmite Neglect’ – 738 complaints not upheld.
3) Flora Buttery – 513 complaints (not upheld) that a scene showing children entering their parents bedroom to find them wrestling was inappropriate.
4) Home Office’s ’Go Home’ ad – 251 complaints upheld in part.
5) Irn-Bru’s ’Embarrassing Mum’ ad – 223 complaints (not upheld) that the sight of a mum pressing her son’s head against her chest was offensive.
6) Bertolli’s ‘Naked Man’ ad – 201 complaints (not upheld) that a scene showing a naked man robbed of his towel by the dog of a group of old women objectified men.
7) Red Bull’s ’Titanic’ ad – 179 complaints (not upheld) that the ad’s message – that the Titanic should have allowed crates of the energy drink on-board – made light of the tragedy.
8) E45 – 167 complaints (not upheld) that its central character’s admission she was “hooked” on moisturising cream normalised drug use. [This ad depicts a young woman sitting in a darkened room, talking about being “hooked” on a moisturizing product, which provoked an angry response that it made light of, normalised and glamourised drug use. It is no longer viewable because it has been repealed.]
9) Pussy Drinks – 159 complaints (upheld in part) that the name of the brand’s website was “sexually explicit” and therefore offensive.
10) Cancer Research – 154 complaints (upheld in part) that lines such as ”Up Your’s Cancer” and “Cancer, you prat” were unsuitable for children.