Picture Post: The most offensive ads of 2007

Hook, line and stinker

This image of a man with a fish hook through his mouth, a literal depiction of being "hooked" on cigarettes, was intended to shock smokers into quitting. But it appears the Department of Health adverts went too far. The ad campaign – which ranged across television, the national press, posters and the internet – was the most offensive of 2007, according to the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) new annual report, at least.

After receiving 774 complaints, the ASA agreed that two of the TV ads and the poster ads could "frighten and distress" children, and they were withdrawn.

Violent imagery in advertising attracted around twice as many complaints last year as in 2006. This ranged from domestic violence – such as the television commercial for the furniture chain MFI in which a woman slaps her husband for leaving the lavatory seat up – to gun and knife crime.

The ASA investigated 55 complaints about posters for the film Shoot 'Em Up featuring guns, and ruled that they could be seen to glamorise the use of guns and violence.

The director general of the ASA, Christopher Graham, said: "During the year, we had stories of kids being knifed or shot, and these are very distressing situations. People don't want to see that reflected lightly back to them."

Sex and race remain causes for concern. Number two on the damning list is a commercial for Cadbury's Trident chewing gum, which attracted 519 complaints for stereotyping and ridiculing black people. The ASA said that, while the ads did not incite racial intolerance or discrimination, they unintentionally caused offence to a significant minority of viewers and should be taken off air.

At number three in the Top 10 of ad complaints, with 219 objections, were two TV commercials for Rustlers burgers and chicken tikka naan, depicting a woman entering a man's flat for "just a coffee". The man enters the kitchen and starts the microwave, and at the same time, a sofa spins round to reveal the woman reclining in her underwear, while a voiceover states: "If only everything was as quick as Rustlers."

Overall, a record number of adverts attracted complaints last year, reaching an all-time high of 14,080, an increase of 9.6 per cent on the previous year.

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