An advertising-industry trade association received 121 complaints about disturbing, misleading or discriminatory ads last year – and another industry group judged that half the complaints were valid.
Sixty-eight percent of the complaints that the Union of Associations of Commercial Councils received were about television commercials. Eighteen percent of complaints involved billboards, 4 percent direct marketing, 3 percent print advertisments and 2 percent radio commercials.
The Commission on Advertising Ethics was the agency that deemed more than half the complaints valid.
The biggest number of complaints involved a campaign to prevent pneumonia that complainants said was too graphic. The advertisment shows a seriously ill child and crying mother. The pictures were accompanied by the statement “Do not let your happiness disappear.”
Another complaint involved an advertising campaign encouraging people to play tunes on a cellular phone. One of the ads shows children looking like adults sitting by a table on which there are cigarettes and drink glasses. Another ad shows a dog falling into a restaurant vase.
The advertising councils union said nearly all the complaints were filed on the Internet using a form available on the web site www.radareklamy.pl. More than two-thirds of the complaints came from women.
One religion-related complaint involved an ad for Red Bull soft drink. The cartoon ad showed four wise men – instead of the three in the Bible – bowing and presenting gifts to the baby Jesus.
The fourth wise man’s gift was Red Bull. In presenting it, he says: “It gives wing. Otherwise the heavenly hosts could not exist.”
Those who complained said the ad denigrated religion – a point the advertising ethics commission agreed with.
The commission rejected a complaint against an ING Nationale-Nederlanden ad that dealt with pensioners. The complaint alleged that the ad was disrespectful toward the elderly in general and pensioners in particular.
The ad involves a conversation between a pensioner and his son. The old man borrows money from his son – a suggestion that pensioners have financial problems. ING Nationale-Nederlanden has investment programs to help people build a retirement nest egg.
The advertising ethics commision said the ad was ethical because it warned against what could happen if a person failed to have a retirement-investment plan.
The animal-rights group Empatia is one of the organizations that has complained about ads. It has made several attempts to force changes in meat advertismements that depict smiling animals encouraging us to eat them.
“We think that such advertisements are immoral,” said Empatia member Dariusz Gzyra. The real situation with animals being used for food is that they feel pain and fear, he said.
Ads should not “create the message that animals dream about being killed and eaten,” he said. “It is not ethical, not honest and it is harmful.”