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KFC television advert named most offensive of all time

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A television advert for fast food chain KFC featuring call centre workers scoffing chicken while singing is the most complained-about advert in British history, according to a report by the UK's advertising regulator.

Marking its 50th anniversary, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued a report revealing that it has dealt with a total 431,000 complaints about advertising over the past five decades.

The ASA also published a list of the most complained-about UK campaigns of all time, headed by KFC's 2005 ad, which generated a record 1,671 complaints.

KFC 2005 Advert


Despite parents objecting that the ad could encourage bad manners among children, the ASA ruled that it was unlikely to undermine parental authority.

Other entrants on the list included Paddy Power's 2010 commercial showing a cat being kicked into a tree by a blind footballer, which attracted 1,313 complaints, along with the UK's first abortion service advice advert (1,088 complaints) and an Opium perfume poster that featured model Sophie Dahl wearing noting but a pair of high heels and jewellery as she reclined on a fur rug (948 complaints).

"Our top ten most complained-about ads of all time certainly reveal what gets the public talking, but even more important is the less glamorous day to day action we take to protect consumers from misleading advertising," said ASA chairman, the Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury.

"Our commitment for the next 50 years will be the same as for the last: to keep UK ads legal, decent, honest and truthful. We're up for the task."

Culture minister Ed Vaizey added: "I congratulate the Advertising Standards Authority as it celebrates its 50th year as the UK's advertising watchdog.

"The advertising industry in the UK is world renowned for its creativity and innovation, but also for abiding by the rules that are designed to protect consumers. As an effective and well respected regulator, the ASA plays a crucial role in enabling responsible advertising to flourish."

The all time most complained-about ads top ten in full:

1. KFC (2005): Call centre workers singing while eating chicken - 1,671 complaints (not upheld)
2. Auction World (2004): Shopping channel - 1,360 complaints (referred to Ofcom)
3. Paddy Power (2010): Cat being kicked into tree by blind footballer - 1,313 complaints (not upheld)
4. The Christian Party (2009): Poster saying 'there definitely is a god' annoys atheists - 1,204 complaints (not upheld)
5. British Safety Council (1995): Condom advert featuring the Pope - 1,192 complaints (upheld)
6. Marie Stopes International (2010): Britain's first TV ad offering advice on sexual health - 1,088 complaints (not upheld)
7. Volkswagen (2008): Showed engineer fighting different versions of himself - 1,070 complaints (partially upheld)
8. Yves St Laurent Beaute (2000): Model Sophie Dahl reclines in the nude - 948 complaints (upheld)
9. Department of Energy and Climate Change (2010): TV and press campaign about climate change - 939 complaints (upheld in part)
10. Barnardo's (2008): TV ads about domestic child abuse - 840 complaints (not upheld)

Phones 4U horror ad
Also today, the ASA said that in 2011, "we experienced a record year in terms of our workload".

An advertising campaign for Phones 4U, featuring a demonic, ghost-like girl, attracted the most complaints last year.

The campaign, which ran in September and October, took inspiration from classic Japanese horror movie The Ring, as the girl stalked a woman in an underground car park.

Shown on various TV channels and also by Channel 4's 4oD service, the ad attracted 659 complaints to the ASA.

Despite various objections that the ads were "offensive, irresponsible, unduly distressing and inappropriately scheduled at a time when children might see them", the ASA cleared the campaign in December 2011.

In second place on the list was a Littlewoods Christmas television ad, which racked up 585 complaints for seemingly suggesting that Santa Claus did not bring people's presents.

Even though parents complained about the ad being shown when children could be watching, the ASA was again unmoved and cleared the campaign.

Phones 4U got the dubious honour of having two more ads in the complaints list, including an Easter press campaign featuring a cartoon image of Jesus winking and offering customers "miraculous deals" on mobile phones.

Almost 100 complaints were submitted against the ads, which were duly banned by the ASA. The third campaign involved TV ads featuring a strange, zombie-like character in various household scenarios, but the ASA opted to dismiss the 79 complaints against it.

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