Offensive UK Television Commercials and Their US Counterparts


Earlier this week, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority released the most controversial advertisements of 2009. Coming in at number one was The Christian Party’s retaliation bus ad, which read: “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.” The message was a response to the British Humanist Association’s, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” ad, which was ranked number six on the list according to how many people called in to complain.

In the spirit of cross-cultural exploration, we thought we’d compare the UK’s most risky television commercials of this past year with some of America’s most controversial. We hope this exercise can teach us something about our neighbors overseas, and possibly ourselves. Are our commercials more disturbing? Less? Click after the jump and decide for yourself. Judge harshly.

1. Most Disturbing

UK: In this commercial, after swallowing some medicine, a man pulls a dead rat out of his mouth. He then proceeds to dry heave into the kitchen sink. That seems like an appropriate response.

US: Everything looks happy and delightful at first, but then this poor woman realizes that not all anthropomorphic bubbles have pure and wholesome intentions.

2. Most Sexist

UK: This advert for Oven Pride makes everyone look bad: the woman belongs in the kitchen; the man is stupid and lazy; and the producers of this commercial are absolutely atrocious at making commercials.

US: Women can and should do it all. Or is this ad only addressing Kelly Ripa? If that’s the case, Electrolux only needed to make one set of appliances.

3. Most In Poor Taste

UK: Hey, so he just wanted that box of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut the whole time? What happened to the value of human life? What happened to toast with marmite for breakfast? This entire commercial is jarring.

US: Putting fashion and comfort above function and transporting a baby around town is a bold move. The medication company, Motrin, tried it and lost a lot of customers.

4. Most Offensive Language

UK: Believe it or not, some people found the use of the word “poo” in this advert offensive. We think Paul and his family are the real victims here for having to put up with this brat’s shit.

US: Even though no dirty words are used here, they are more than implied. Oh, you didn’t even notice these men were speaking? It’s understandable if your attention was elsewhere.

5. Most Violent

UK: We’re sorry, but this commercial is fun to watch. Maybe we’ve gone past a point of no return when it comes to watching violence on television. It could be that the UK is the final bulwark of civilization and we just don’t know it yet.

US: How American: beer, babes and brawling. There is, however, a tacit feminine response to this male-fantasy commercial. In the end, Miller Lite hopes to provide its viewers with sex, violence, and a moral rebuke of what just occurred. This commercial gives its viewers what they want while simultaneously disapproving of what they want. (Sort of like this entire post.)