KFC's dancing chicken tops list of 2017's most complained about ads

Adverts featuring a chicken dancing to rap music to promote Kentucky Fried Chicken, breastfeeding in public, and gay kissing, provoked the most outrage among television viewers last year.

KFC’s campaign featuring a chicken “dancing” to DMX’s X Gonna Give It To Ya received the most complaints of any advert in the UK last year, gaining 755 – with viewers objecting that it was disrespectful and distressing.

The ad, called The Whole Chicken, aimed to focus on the quality and provenance of KFC-sourced chicken but instead outraged viewers told the advertising watchdog that it was “disrespectful to chickens and distressing for vegetarians, vegans and children”.

Moneysupermarket’s “dance off” ads, featuring men wearing denim cutoffs and heels facing off against builders, once again made the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) list of the top 10 most complained about ads. The latest ad in the campaign, which now also features a female character, ranked second with 455 complaints suggesting it was “offensive on the grounds that it was overtly sexual and possibly homophobic”.

A series of ads by the Unilever-owned Dove that contained statistics and opinions about breastfeeding in public drew 391 complaints to the ASA, ranking it third. Members of the public criticised the language used, such as “put them away”, arguing that it might encourage criticism of breastfeeding. Dove apologised, pulled the ads and amended its website. The ASA decided there were no grounds for investigating it.

A McDonald’s ad about a dead father’s love of filet-o-fish sandwiches received 256 complaints.

In the case of KFC and Moneysupermarket, the ASA dismissed the complaints, saying that the campaigns were not likely to cause widespread offence and did not break the UK advertising code.

The ASA said that while the top 10 covered a wide range of scenarios – from a mother telling her son about his dead father’s favourite McDonald’s sandwich to a Currys PC World ad criticised for promoting TV over Christianity at Christmas – the common thread was on the grounds of offence.

“2017 again showed that it is ads that have the potential to offend that attract the highest numbers of complaints,” said Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA. “But multiple complaints don’t necessarily mean that an ad has fallen on the wrong side of the line. We look carefully at the audience, the context and prevailing societal standards informed by public research before we decide.”

Match.com’s ad showing a lesbian kiss was the fourth most complained about ad (293) and has now drawn almost 1,200 complaints over the two years it has been aired. Two men kissing in an ad for O2 mobile phones made the list at number eight with 125 complaints. The ASA has never upheld complaints about the ad.

A Currys PC World ad drew criticism for promoting TV over Christianity at Christmas.

A McDonald’s ad featuring a mother telling her son how he and his dead father loved the filet-o-fish sandwich ranked fifth with 256 complaints. The fast food chain swiftly pulled the campaign; complaints included that it trivialised grief and was distasteful. An apology was offered. The ASA decided an investigation was not needed.

Some viewers also found distressing the fast-moving scenes of a father suffering the effects of chemotherapy and cancer, including vomiting and crying in the bath. More than 100 complained to the ASA, making it rank ninth. But the Macmillan Cancer Support ad was cleared because it “served to illustrate the reality of living with cancer”.