Ads featuring same-sex couples and men in heels attracted most complaints in 2016

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Adverts featuring a same-sex kiss and men dancing in heels were the most complained-about in 2016, it has been revealed.

The Advertising Standards Authority released data last week on the ads that attracted the greatest number of complaints.

Of the ten ads that attracted the most complaints, none were accused of being misleading or inaccurate, instead facing challenge for “causing offence”.

Three of the four most-complained about ads were for, who have a recurring ad campaign featuring men dancing provocatively in high heels and tight shorts. The three MoneySuperMarket dancing ads attracted 1,063, 898 and 530 complaints respectively in 2016.

The only clip to garner a similar level of outrage was a TV ad for, which featured two women kissing and attracted 896 complaints.

Speaking to PinkNews, advertising lawyer Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, a member of LGBT advertising industry group PrideAM, said the revelation was “particularly demoralising”.

He said: “ASA complaints are typically made on grounds of misleading the viewer. However, the top ten most complained about ads in 2016 did not look like a rogue’s gallery of brands that made wild exaggerations about their products or services – in fact none of the ten most complained about ads were accused of misleading anyone.

“Instead, all of them stood accused of causing ‘serious or widespread offence’.

“Dave, the high-heeled dancer in tight denim shorts, and his troupe got under the skin of the ‘Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells’ brigade in 2016, just as they had done the previous year.

“But perhaps the most disheartening thing in my view was that 896 people complained about a ad which featured a kissing couple. The main ‘problem’ for many of the people who complained seems to have been that this everyday scene involved two women, rather than a straight couple.

“There is still hope, however.

“Yes, ‘Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells’ is still going to take up his or her quill to complain about ads which they consider to be ‘offensive’ for depicting sexy dancing or same-sex couples, but the vast majority of us have moved on. And so has the ASA – they dismissed the complaints against all of the top ten most complained about ads.

“I for one am pleased that advertisers in the UK can continue to put out creative work without fear of being curtailed by an overly sensitive regulator; and I urge advertisers to continue to portray and normalise LGBT+ individuals, relationships and families in advertising when the opportunity arises.”

ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker, said of the list: “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 or service, have also sought to present a positive statement about diversity but were in fact seen by some as doing the opposite.

“In all those cases, we thought people generally would see the ads in a positive light and that the boundary between bad taste and serious or widespread offence had been navigated well enough, often through using sensible scheduling restrictions.”