The ASA, in conjunction with the Code-writing body CAP, has today published its Annual Review for 2009. The Review includes a list of ads which received the most complaints in 2009. Topping the list was an ad from the Christian party, which ran with the strapline “There definitely is a God” on London buses. The ads were in response to the British Humanist Association’s campaign, also on London buses, stating “There is probably no God. Now relax and enjoy your life”. The Christian Party’s ad received 1,204 complaints, making it the most complained-about ad in 2009 and the third highest of all time. It was not investigated by the ASA, however, as ads for political parties are not covered by the Codes and are therefore outside the remit of the ASA. The Humanist Association’s ad came in at position 6 on the list with 392 complaints, but it was not investigated by the ASA as the claim was deemed to be an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and not capable of substantiation anyway.
Other notable entries in the list were an ad for the Volkswagen Golf featuring graphic fight sequences in the style of The Matrix, which received 1,070 complaints and was banned before the 9pm watershed, an ad for Home Pride Oven Cleaner with the strapline “So easy even a man can do it”, which received 804 complaints, but was not deemed by the ASA to be offensive, and an ad for Crunchy Nut Cornflakes spoofing the famous baby in a pram scene from The Untouchables, which received 323 complaints but was not deemed by the ASA to cause widespread offence or encourage harm to children.
The Review also details some significant rulings and investigations carried out by the ASA into areas such as advertising financial products, making health claims in ads for food and drink products, the use of airbrushing in health and beauty ads, and specifically focuses on alcohol advertising and advertising directed at children.