Watchdog backs kick-the-cat advert
An advert in which a cat was kicked across a football pitch by blind players attracted the most complaints in 2010, a watchdog has said.
A total of 1,313 people contacted the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to complain about the ad for bookmakers Paddy Power, saying it was offensive to blind people and could encourage cruelty to animals.
The complaints were not upheld however, with the ASA noting in its annual report: "We felt the ad was surreal and light-hearted in tone and was unlikely to encourage or condone cruelty to animals or cause serious or widespread offence."
The television ad opened with a shot of a kitbag marked Blind Wanderers FC and two teams of blindfolded men in the middle of a game. A cat is shown running on to the pitch before a player takes a kick, followed by the sound of a thud and a loud meow.
A man in a suit appears on the pitch and says: "Paddy Power can't get Tiddles back, there's nothing we can do about that, but we can get you your money back with our money-back specials."
Paddy Power provided a letter from the manager of the England Blind Football Team, who supported the concept, to defend the ad against the complaints and said it featured an action "so unlikely that it was absurd".
The ASA received 25,214 complaints in 2010, a decline of 13% from the previous year. The number of adverts attracting complaints also fell to 13,074, a decline of 6%. ASA rulings led to 2,226 adverts or campaigns being changed or withdrawn.
The second most complained about advert last year was another television ad, this time for Marie Stopes International. Again it was not upheld, despite 1,088 complaints.
It was claimed that the ad promoted abortion, but the ASA said: "We felt it was clear the advertisers were promoting their post-conception advice service and was neither advocating one course of action over another, nor trivialising the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy."
The Department of Energy and Climate Change, taking third place, was accused of "scaremongering" by some of the 939 who complained about its television and press campaign on climate change awareness. The ASA rejected the majority of the complaints but upheld some about their press ads, after members of the public said the likelihood and impact of extreme weather conditions had been exaggerated.