The 10 most complained about TV ads of 2015 revealed

MoneySuperMarket.com's ad that topped the list
MoneySuperMarket.com's ad that topped the list

A man cavorting in high heels and hot pants and an advert that cast doubt over Santa's existence topped the list of most complained about ads in 2015, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed.

At the top - with more than double the number of complaints the second most criticised ad received - was MoneySuperMarket.com's internet and TV advert of a man walking down a street and dancing while wearing denim shorts and high-heeled shoes.

Some 1,513 complaints that the ad was offensive were filed, with many viewers citing the man's clothing and dance moves and its "overtly sexual" content as reasons.

Three Booking.com adverts - involving a play on words where the word "booking" was seen to be used in the place of a swear word - were the second, fourth and seventh most complained about ads.

Online payment website PayPal claimed third place with its portrayal of two children concerned that their parents had not been shopping for Christmas presents.

Nearly 500 people expressed fears that "the ad revealed the truth about Father Christmas" - and despite the complaints not being upheld, PayPal decided to change its scheduling of the advert.

A controversial Protein World poster campaign showing a woman in a bikini promoting a weight loss collection was the fifth most complained about ad, drawing 380 complaints.

The posters, which asked "Are you beach body ready?", were criticised on social media and scrawled over in protest by angry commuters.

The ASA told Protein World that, due to its concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims, the ad could not appear again in its current form, but concluded it was "unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence".

Charity ads and public health messages, which the ASA said can sometimes draw complaints due to their "sensitive content and handling of hard-hitting issues", also featured in the top 10.

Only one out of the top 10 adverts receiving the most complaints - an Omega Pharma ad for a slimming aid - was banned, after the ASA found it presented "an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence".

The number of complaints an ad receives is only one of the factors the ASA takes into account when looking at whether it has broken its rules. Other aspects include the ad's audience, medium, context and research into prevailing standards in society.

While the top 10 list largely drew complaints about harm and offence, 75% of the complaints the ASA receives are about misleading ads, the regulator said.

It spent last year ensuring broadband providers and secondary ticketing sites were transparent in their pricings, and that vloggers made it clear when they were being paid to endorse products.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "While matters of offence can grab the headlines, the bulk of our work is the less glamorous task of tackling misleading advertising.

"That's why we're taking a more proactive approach to address the issues which affect consumers the most before complaints need to be made."


1. MoneySuperMarket.com - 1,513 complaints, not upheld. Viewers complained that the TV and internet ad featuring a man dancing in high heels and denim shorts was offensive due to its "overtly sexual content".

2. Booking.com - 683 complaints, not upheld. This TV and cinema ad prompted complaints that the ad was offensive and encouraged bad language amongst children by using the word "booking" in place of a swear word. The ASA ruled it was a light-hearted play on words.

3. PayPal (UK) - 464 complaints, not upheld. Viewers were concerned that the TV advert, which shows two children worried that their parents have not bought them Christmas presents, would cast doubt over Santa's existence.

4. Booking.com - 407 complaints, not upheld. Complainants found this TV ad featuring a man sitting on a boat before jumping off and swimming ashore offensive due to its use of the word "booking". The ASA ruled as before.

5. Protein World - 380 complaints, not upheld. The ASA told Protein World that their posters asking people if they were "beach body ready" could not appear again in their current form, but ultimately found the campaign was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

6. British Heart Foundation - 219 complaints, not upheld. The TV and cinema ad showing a boy sitting in a classroom talking to his father who had died from a heart attack was considered distressing, but the ASA ruled the effect would not be widespread.

7. Booking.com - 201 complaints, not upheld. The TV ad showed a story of a couple who met at a hotel and involved wordplay around the word "booking". The ASA ruled as before.

8. Department of Health - 181 complaints, not upheld. Part of a Public Health England anti-smoking campaign, the "graphic" and "gruesome" ads showed a cigarette which contained flesh, but the ASA found they contained an "important health message".

9. Nicocigs - 145 complaints, not upheld. A TV ad for an electronic cigarette was criticised for potentially appealing to children, however the ASA noted the ad was not scheduled around programmes that would appeal to children and was not in a style that would appeal to them.

10. Omega Pharma - 136 complaints, upheld. Two women were seen exchanging texts comparing their bodies before heading on holiday in this TV and YouTube ad. The ASA banned it for presenting "an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence".