Belfast Telegraph

Business View: When ads flaunt the boundaries of taste

As wisecracking American Will Rogers once said, "advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need".

It's a catchy definition which makes advertising sound like a bland art - and companies have been making their mark on advertising for generations.

Now the Advertising Standards Agency has named and shamed the 10 most complained-about adverts of 2014. It seems last year will be judged as a vintage year for advertising - but for all the wrong reasons, as some of the most-complained about ads of all time appeared during that year.

Paddy Power's ill-judged Oscar Pistorius ad, inviting the public to bet on the outcome of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was the most-complained about ever, with 5,525 complaints

It was a shameless exploitation of a tragedy, so the volume of complaints is understandable.

But the milder offence of bad language - or the suggestion of bad language - prompted the next most complaint-attracting ad. An ad for attracted 1,768 complaints last year alone for its apparent use of the word "booking" as a substitute for a swear word. A work of a body like the ASA provides us with a clear reminder of where our sensibilities lie.

But it's unlikely that their sanctions will ever make the practice of offensive advertising completely disappear.

Belfast Telegraph