The Top 10 Most Complained About TV Ads This Century

With the release of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) annual report, they’ve again included details on last years most complained about 10. There’s plenty of articles floating around the web talking about last year’s complaint but seeing as the most complained about ad received enough complaints to put it at number 3 in the overall top 10 list I thought it might be fun/interesting to look at the rest of the ads that make up the top 10.

I’m not going to link to the ads below because as you can probably guess from the title of this post a large number of people decided that the ads listed below were offensive so although you might not agree with them I don’t want to risk upsetting any of you 🙂

1. Marie Stopes – Are You Late? (2010)     4,688+ complaints
(including 3,600 objections made before broadcast)

This was the first ad ever shown on British television for unplanned pregnancy & abortion advisory services. It was part of a larger campaign by Marie Stopes. As you can imagine the complaints made against this ad covered quite a few reasons, including that it promoted abortion

2. KFC – Zinger Crunch (2005)     1,671 complaints

The second most complained about ad this century does not contain foul language, excessive violence, in fact it doesn’t include any of the usual reasons behind the complaints made against TV ads.  A few of you might remember the KFC ad where a couple of call centre workers singing with their mouths full. The majority of the complaint said it encouraged bad manners. The ASA ruled it was unlikely to prompt bad manners in children and so the complaints were not upheld.

3. Paddy Power – Blind Footballers (2010)     1,313 complaints

This was last year’s most complained about ad with people worried that the ad was both offensive to blind people and could encourage animal cruelty. Even though the ad received over 1,000 complaints the ASA said it was surreal and light-hearted and it decided the advert was unlikely to encourage or condone cruelty to animals or cause serious or widespread offence and so did not uphold the complaints.

4. VW Golf – Clones (2008)     1,066 Complaints

In this ad the car designer has to fight ‘clones’ of himself to get to his car, which was supposed to represent how as a market leader VW only had themselves to beat. Complaints were made saying that is is offensive because the depiction of violence was excessive.

5. Dept. of Energy & Climate – Act on CO2 (2010)     939 Complaints

The story of the increasing amoutns of CO2 in our atmosphere was told as if it was a child’s bedtime story in this ad. The ad ended with the child asking if there was a happy ending after which a vocie over kicks in and says “It’s up to us how the story ends. See what you can do.”

6. Barnardo’s – Child Abuse: Break The Cycle (2007)     840 Complaints

This ad was particularly strong and I actually found it pretty difficult to watch when I first saw it broadcast. It shows the story of a young girl slipping into a life of crime after suffering domestic abuse. Barnardo’s has a reputation for shock tactics but in this case their graphic ad received over 800 complaints. Barnardo’s took the feedback on hand and actually published an apology for any distress caused by the ad, however, they stood by their decision to run the campaign as they felt it was their duty to “ensure the issue of child poverty in this country is no longer neglected and that is the reason we have run such a hard-hitting campaign.”

7. Mr Kipling – Nativity (2004)     806 Complaints

This ad for Mr Kipling Mince pies begins with a woman called Mary in labour and crying out in pain in what appears to be a hospital. It’s only as the camera draws back we learn that she is not in a hospital but is instead is on a stage surrounded by children and being watched by a horrified audience. A woman in the audience turns to a vicar also in the audience and asks in a concerned voice if Mr Kipling has ever directed a Nativity play before. The vicar, who is unfazed by the performance, responds: “No, but he does make exceedingly good cakes.”

After receiving so many complaints the decision was made to withdraw this ad.

8. Dept. of Health – Hooked (2007)     774 Complaints

The Department of Health was trying to highlight the dangers of getting hooked on smoking by showing people with hooks in their mouths. The ASA agreed with the complaints and said that they were likely to frighten people or cause distress.

9. Volkswagen Polo –Singing Dog (2007)     743 Complaints

This ad features a very happy dog ‘singing’ from the front seat of the car, apparently full of ‘Polo confidence’ all is going well so far with everyone smiling at the happy dog, however, the mood changes pretty quickly as the shot quickly changes to the same dog cowering by his owner’s legs, while quietly mumbling the song under its breath.

This image of the dog prompted the RSPCA to launch an investigation into the treatment of the dog as they were concerned of mis-treatment.

10. Pot Noodle – Pot Noodle Horn (2005)     620 Complaints

This ad was supposed to play on the guilt factor behind eating pot noodles and the supposed shame behind eating a Pot Noodle. It starts with a man walking into a bar with a noticeable bulge in his trousers, and his friends accuse him of “having the horn”. The man denies it at first but then admits that he does have the horn, at which point he pulls out a real hunting horn from his trousers and blows it loudly. After a struggle the man owns up and says “OK, I have got the Pot Noodle horn. It’s big, it’s brassy and I’m going to blow it”. Complaints made against this ad included issues that it was embarrassing whilst others thought it unacceptable to use such a blatant sexual reference to sell a food product.

If I’m honest, I think the ASA probably thought they might get some complaints about Pot Noodle’s advertising as they had already stopped the company running the tagline “The slag of all snacks”

As advertisers constantly look for ways to make them and their ads stand out I’m sure that the ASA will have plenty more ads to review, you never know this time next year I might even have to write an update to this list.

Are there any ads that you remember and wonder how they ever made it to air? If so, let me know below.

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Out & About On The Conference Circuit: SES London 2011

This year I have made a conscience decision to attend more industry conferences and events and so with this in mind, one rainy February morning I made my way to the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster (opposite Westminster Abbey & a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament) for SES (Search Engine Strategies) London. This conference & expo is part of a series of events with other conferences taking place in New York & Shanghai amongst other cosmopolitan locations.

This was the first time that I have been able to attend the conference as a paid up visitor and so I planned on taking full advantage of the various talks and seminars running throughout the time I was there (which was unfortunately, only one day).

The talks came thick & fast with ideas and thoughts flying around everywhere, and by the end of the day I was ready for a drink and a good natter with the other attendees. Luckily for me, such an event was being held for onboard the HMS President (it was almost as if they had planned it) and so it only seemed right for me to go along and say hello to everyone (and maybe have that drink).

If you get the chance to attend SES in future I would highly recommend it not only are the talks filled to the brim great ideas that you’ll want to try out but you’re also able to meet and chat with other people in the industry. These casual chats are almost always where the real industry secrets lie and so I would really suggest that if you are able to go to this type of event, you should. It’s only when you get out there and meet/hear everyone that you’ll be able to see that everyone is looking at the same things as you are & that you’re all in the same boat together.

If you are interested in the session highlights from my day at SES you can find them in a couple of posts on the Screaming Frog SEM blog. If I find the time I might also add some more highlights to the blog, there were so many great tips and ideas though that it could turn into a long series of posts!

I’ll also be going to the BrightonSEO event in April and I’m planning on posting some stuff from there too so keep your eyes peeled for that 🙂

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Product Placement on UK TV

Ofcom has recently confirmed that from the end of February 2011 advertisers will be able to openly pay for their products to be used in UK television programs. This brings the UK up into line with the US where product placement has been permissible for what seems forever.

Due to the amount of US television shows currently being broadcast in the UK, this change may not bother many viewers, with some, probably saying that they weren’t even aware that product placement was illegal. All of the ‘top’ US shows have carried product placement for a number of years with manufacturers and brands paying millions of dollars to make sure that the lead actors are working on their Dell desktops or talking to their co-stars on their iPhones. Now it seems that viewers will have to get used to their UK counterparts doing similar.

Although the ban on paid placement has been lifted Ofcom have still restricted the use of product placement and although placement will be allowed in films; soaps; entertainment shows & sports programmes they will not be allowed to appear in any children’s & news programmes or any UK produced current affairs, consumer affairs or religious programs.

They have also set legislation that restricts the type of product permissible and have banned:

  • Tobacco products
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Food or drinks high in fat, salt or sugar
  • Medicines
  • Baby milk

The Ofcom rules also make it clear that although product placement is now allowed the placement of any product must “not impair broadcasters’ editorial independence and must always be editorially justified.” This in essence means that the program cannot be written with the product in mind so that they simply become an out and out advertisement for the product. This rule then stops any issues like when the ’Sex And The City’ writers created a plot revolving around Absolut Vodka.

Product Placement has been a very successful form of advertising and it will continue to be so, and so I can see it really taking off over here & becoming a very popular revenue stream with TV producers. Some commentators have said that it could be worth at least 5% of the total UK TV advertising market. If this is the case that would give it an annual value of £150m.

The difference is I think that because of the internet and the ability to watch programs from overseas people may not immediately think “Oh I really need to go and buy more Coca -Cola because the American Idol/ X Factor judges have it on their table”… That said I could be proved wrong, it has happened before (though not very often).

Finally, I couldn’t write a post about product placement without including the Wayne’s World scene where they lampoon the whole idea. 🙂

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Track Santa’s Journey with Google & NORAD

It’s that time of the year when all kids (and big kids) are hoping that they’ve made the nice list & are waiting excitedly for St. Nick to visit them overnight and leave a whole host of goodies under their Christmas trees…

When I was a kid you would always ask your parents just before going to sleep how Santa manages to do it all in one night and how quick he must be to get everything done before Christmas morning (other questions included fireplace related confusion & whether Rudolph actually wanted the half dozen carrots you left out on a small table alongside some mince pies/cookies & a glass of milk). Well nowadays, kids (and parents) alike can answer a lot of the questions with the help of Google & NORAD because for the last few years people have been able to track in real time the whereabouts of Santa is with Google Earth & NORAD. This really brings the old tradition of Chris Cringle into the new web age and I can just see kids all around the world hurriedly rushing to their mum’s & dad’s and asking them to help them find Santa.

If you have kids (or you are just a big kid yourself) you can start tracking Santa from 2pm EST (7pm GMT) today as he starts his journey via Google Maps from your computer/ phone as well as on Google Earth with the plug-in (you just need to search for [santa]).

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

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My Predictions for 2011

I predict only two things for 2011:

1.) There will be a minimum of a dozen or so blog articles predicting the next big thing for 2011 (with at least one claming 2011 is the year of mobile and/or social)

2.) Most of these articles will get their predictions wrong.

We’ll have to come back this time next year & see if I’m right.

That is all. 🙂

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12 Really Useful SEM Excel Functions

This is probably going to be one of the more geekier posts on this blog but as I use Excel pretty much all day, every day I tend to use a lot more than just the standard SUM function and so I thought I would jot a few down & hopefully help others in the same position as myself. If I’ve missed any formulae that you think should be on this list, let me know in the comments!

I’ll start with a few of standard formula you can find under the fx button & then move on to some more advanced ones after, if you’re not as geeky as me feel free to bail now 😉

Click for larger image

=SUM: This formula does pretty much what it says on the tin, by using it you are able to calculate the sum of a selection of cells.

=AVERAGE: Again, this is another of those cells where you can work out the outcome by its name, but in the off chance you haven’t worked it out this formula will tell you the average value from a given set of cells.

=LEN: Returns the number of characters (including spaces) within selected cells. As a PPC’er this formula comes in VERY handy when creating new ads

=CONCATENATE: This function allows you to join several text strings into one text string. In versions of Excel prior to 2007 this was limited to a maximum of 30 separate strings but this limit has been raised in 2007 and newer.

=TRIM: Removes all spaces from text except those between words (i.e. additional ones at the start or end of the text string)

=LOWER: Changes all text into lower case. (You can also use =UPPER to put the text into UPPER CASE

=PROPER: Returns text in Sentence Form. (It Capitalises The First Letter Of Each Word)

=MIN: This will return the smallest number in a set of values. If you want the largest you can use =MAX

=LEFT: This will give a number of characters from the start of the text string that you specify. (If you want the opposite & characters from the end of the text string you can use =RIGHT)

=IF: This function allows you to check whether a specific condition is met. It will return one value if it is true and another if it false. These are the standard responses and you can amend them to state anything that you like. (You’re also able to use ‘AND’ ‘OR’ functions to add further arguments into t the initial test conditions to add further into the formula). NOTE: You used to only be able to ‘nest’ a maximum of 6 IF functions into one formula (run all at once), but I don’t know if this is still the case with Excel 2007 & newer.

=SUBSTITUTE: Substitutes specific text in a text string to another. Particularly useful when re-coding URLs

=VLOOKUP: This allows you to find a value within a table of data. It will look for the value in the 1st column of your table & then it will return a value from the same row of a different column (which you specify). I’ve seen/ heard a few people have problems with this function and 99% of the time it’s because of sorting issues. For this to work properly your table needs to be sorted in ascending order.

=NETWORKDAYS: This function will give you the number of whole workdays between two dates. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to calculate daily campaign budgets for campaigns that are only active during the working week.

Another great feature in Excel is the ability to create Pivot tables, these tables are very powerful & enable you to analyse large amounts of data very easily & quickly. As with the other functions mentioned in this post there is also a wizard that will help you create the table, so there’s no need to worry.

None of the functions above are exclusive either so you can nest various different functions together to get even deeper results from your data.

Hopefully you’ll find these formulas/ functions useful. As I said earlier, as someone who works in excel pretty much all day I use a lot of these functions on a daily basis when building PPC keyword lists, ad copy etc. and without them everything would take a lot longer to do, and no-one wants that!

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3-2-1… BUNGY!!

It may have taken a while but eventually after being back from honeymoon for over a month I have finally managed to get the video of Ellie & I bungy jumping in New Zealand.

Warning: Ellie’s language during this video is not for the faint hearted so if you’re easily offended you might want to turn your sound down/ put the video on mute. 😉

Hope you enjoy seeing the petrified look on Ellie’s face (and please no comments about her language…)

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Hello World!

I suppose I had better say something interesting...

Forgive this first post, it’s not really going to say a lot but hopefully all my later posts will be filled with awesome content! 🙂

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