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50 Years of Shocking Ads

Posted on 19/02/2014 by Emma Dadswell

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To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Advertising Standards Authority, has published the 10 most complained about ads of all time.  

Responsible for regulating print and broadcast advertising in the UK, the ASA's list of most complained-about ads is an interesting – if slightly disturbing – insight into the British psyche where nudity and lack of manners are taboo.

1,671 people complained about a KFC television advert in 2005 where customers were seen talking with their mouths full – some said it would encourage bad manners amongst children but the complaint was not upheld. Complaints that were upheld include those against the British Safety Council for a print ad featuring the Pope encouraging condom use and the infamous YSL Opium ad starring a naked Sophie Dahl.

Those in the business know that successful advertising should encourage audience engagement, and shock factor is one way to do this - but where is the line between getting people to tune into your brand, and turning potential customers off?

Today, media fragmentation means the way we gather information is changing. Ad-avoidance is a hot topic amongst media professionals and advertising agencies are having to become even more creative to compete with viral, guerilla and ambient campaigns.

Like any art form, advertising should evoke emotion in the beholder in order to have served its purpose. Are these adverts, still receiving coverage years after release, the most successful campaigns of all time?