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Watchdog rules top 10 'offensive' TV adverts not worthy of ban

By Adrian Rutherford

A Paddy Power advert showing a blind footballer kicking a cat was among the most complained-about commercials of 2016.

The ad by the Irish bookmaker was first shown in 2010, generating more than 1,000 complaints.

Its rerun last year drew another 450 submissions to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA originally ruled that the ad had not broken the rules and the majority of viewers would see it as humorous and not humiliating or undermining to blind people, and so did not reinvestigate it last year.

A second Paddy Power ad also features in the top 10.

This clip showed a group of Scottish people singing about the fact they didn’t mind not qualifying for Euro 2016, because they could still bet on England to lose.

Viewers said the ad was racist, with some believing it encouraged anti-English views, while others believed the stereotypes of Scottish people portrayed in the ad were offensive. 

The ASA concluded it would generally be understood to be a light-hearted and humorous reflection of the friendly sporting rivalry between the two nations.

“We ruled the stereotypical features used to describe and depict the Scottish people in the ad would largely be understood to be a celebration of Scottish culture rather than malicious mocking,” it said.

MoneySuperMarket dominated the top 10 — none of which were banned — with its three ads featuring Gary the dancing bodyguard and the twerking businessman Dave and his builder rival Colin.

The three ads received a combined 2,491 complaints from offended viewers who found Gary’s dance moves “distasteful” and argued that the ads featuring Dave and Colin could be seen to be homophobic and could encourage hate crimes. Match.com’s ad showing a woman removing her female partner’s top and passionately kissing her received 896 complaints from viewers who believed it was sexually explicit and inappropriately scheduled. Completing the list was Smart Energy’s ad featuring cartoon characters Gaz and Leccy, the Home Office’s ‘Disrespect Nobody’ ad about domestic violence, an ad for Maltesers featuring a woman in a wheelchair, and a series of ads for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which made references to giving up vegetarianism.

The ASA found that none of the 10 ads “crossed the line” between bad taste and offence.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “The ads that attract the highest number of complaints are often not the ones that need banning.

“Our action leads to thousands of ads being amended or withdrawn each year, mostly for being misleading, but there wasn’t one misleading ad in the top 10.

“In the list there are a number of ads, which while advertising their product have also sought to present a positive statement about diversity but were seen by some as doing the opposite.

“We thought people generally would see the ads in a positive light and the boundary between bad taste and serious or widespread offence had been navigated well enough.”

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