Assertive Advertising or Commercial Casualty?

Freshwater’s Senior Account Executive, Rhian Rogers, reflects on 2015’s most complained about adverts.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) recently revealed the top 10 most complained about adverts of 2015, comprising a host of instantly recognisable storylines, straplines and characters.

The year’s top offender,, landed more than 1,500 complaints for its booty shaking brand champion Dave and his denim hot pants, while repeat offender secured three places in the top ten list for its campaign which was accused of repeatedly using the word ‘booking’ in place of an implied swear word.

Controversial weight-loss supplement brand, Protein World, stirred up a social media backlash as well as 380 ASA complaints for its provocative bikini body billboard campaign, and PayPal hit a nerve with consumers during the festive period, amid complaints that its ad implied that Father Christmas is not real. 

While branded ‘the most annoying adverts of 2015’ by critics, the top 10 most complained about adverts represent some of the most notorious and well-known adverts of the year, arguably reinforcing their success.

In theory, if an advert is so provocative that it sparks conversations on social media, debates amongst colleagues or even generates press coverage, then surely it should be considered a success?

Not necessarily. For many advertisers, boosting brand awareness through TV advertising is a key objective, however, there are countless other KPIs that advertisers endeavour to achieve and which risk being damaged by a provocative advert.

On the flip side, a divisive advert can prove to be extremely powerful in promoting behavioural change; consider the dramatic reduction in road deaths since anti-drink drive adverts were first aired more than 50 years ago.

When planning any advertising campaign, whether TV, radio, print or online, a brand’s ethos, objectives and target audience should be carefully considered at the outset to ensure that the campaign is set to achieve all of its key objectives without alienating its audiences, or crucially damaging brand reputation.

Freshwater has delivered TV advertising campaigns for clients in both the public and private sector and was recently commissioned by the Welsh Government to create a TV advert to promote its Parenting. Give it Time campaign.

The Parenting. Give it Time campaign aims to encourage parents to give time to talk and listen to their children, and access advice, guidance and tips on positive parenting techniques from the new dedicated website .

Our creative concept for the campaign featured parents and children enjoying spending time undertaking everyday activities together including meal time, shopping, bath time and bed time. These scenarios were identified by focus groups, made up of the target audience, as being typically stressful activities.

Our TV campaign was broadcast via Sky AdSmart because of its highly advanced targeting methods, enabling us to serve the advert exclusively to Sky TV households with children aged between 0-4 years. Stings of the Welsh language TV advert were also broadcast on S4C during the channel’s children’s television block, Cyw and the advert was further promoted digitally via YouTube’s advertising platform, TrueView.

Watch our TV advert for the Welsh Government’s Parenting. Give it Time campaign:


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017