Top 10 most complained about ads of 2017 – what does the ASA list tell us?

09th February 2018

Recently the ASA published their figures for the most complained about ads of 2017. The list was largely made up of TV ads but none of the complaints were upheld. A year ago, their list of the top ten most complained-about ads of 2016 featured nine TV ads, none of which were the subject of upheld rulings. These results show us two things.


Firstly, the list shows how effective pre-clearance is. The list had one common theme – all complaints were made on the grounds of offence, which is a tricky, subjective and far reaching sphere. These ads may have garnered hundreds of complaints but the ASA’s decision not to ban any of them following investigation shows just how well we’ve been doing our job of getting your ads to air and keeping them there.


We’re also reminded of the impact TV ads continue to have despite the rise of online and an uncertain economy following the Brexit referendum. Last year Thinkbox commissioned a study called “Profit Ability – the business case for advertising” which showed that pound for pound TV advertising out-performs all other media investments, in both the short and long term. As Lord Smith said in a piece he wrote in October for Campaign after 10 years as the ASA’s Chairman: “TV resilience is one of the major stories of the current marketing landscape.”


We won’t be surprised to see TV ads dominating the 2018 list too, but once again we’re working hard to ensure that they are the right side of line.