10 Biggest Advertising Complaints Of All Time

Adverts are often spoken of with great affection, especially around the time of the Super Bowl. They make you laugh, or cry, and can often shock you with their creativity and movie-like budgets.

But that’s only true of adverts. Mention the word “advertising” and you get a much different response. The industry on a whole is often considered in a negative light. It’s filled with slick suits that care only about money, or it vastly exaggerates the truth to get people to buy something.

While this, on the whole, is not actually the case, movies and TV shows do a lot to propagate these myths.

However, advertising is definitely doing things that you, the public, do not like. In reverse order here is a list of the top 10 advertising complaints that the general public, and even those in the industry, have about advertising, adverts, promotions, PR, and anything else that is considered a paid-for message.

10: Overt Sexuality

Comedian Bill Hicks once said in the late 80s that one day, there will be an ad for Coca-Cola that is simple a naked woman holding a can of Coke. He was not far off. Sex, nakedness, double entendres and an abundance of erotic imagery is everywhere, selling everything from beer and cars, to phones and gardening tools. There’s no reason for it, other than the fact that it is tapping into our basic carnal, animal, lizard-brain desires. Sadly, it works on some people; but many of you are over it.

9: Actors Pretending to be Real People

You hear them on the radio. You see them on TV and on your phones and tablets. So called real people telling you their stories about the great products that have changed their lives.

They’re more attractive than the average person. They are well-spoken, and never miss a beat. They are….actors. They are reading lines written by professional copywriters, they don’t have real stories to share, and they don’t love the product or service. In fact, they had never even heard of it until they got the assignment.

Everyone knows it, and yet actors continue to pretend to be real people swearing about the usefulness of medications, cleaning products, and hair dyes. You hate them. You have every right.

8: Making You Feel Bad

In the 60’s and 70’s, often considered the golden age of advertising, a new kind of selling approach was discovered. Create a hole, and then fill that hole. The hole created was in your life. Basically,“your life sucks right now, and it will keep on sucking until you buy XYZ product. After that, it will be super awesome!” This has been going on for decades, and you are all tired of it. You don’t want people telling you that your life is bad.

After all, if you’re living in a home, with a car and a job, you’re already doing way better than most people in the world. However, this will not stop. Advertisers know that creating a hole, or a problem, is a great way to sell something. Just remember…it’s only an advertising, and you really don’t NEED anything being sold to you. The chances of it turning your life into a walking dream a very slim.

7: Lack of Relevancy

Ads work best in context. If you’re waiting in line at a sporting event, and you see an ad for a team shirt online, that’s cool. But these days, the shotgun approach appears to be everywhere. It doesn’t matter what you’re currently looking at, where you are, or what you’re doing, you’re seeing ads for insurance, cars, beers, watches, and medications. Contextual ads serve a purpose; they can quickly turn someone who is a cold prospect into a qualified prospect. Ads without context, they’re just “hit and hope” attempts to get you to buy something. They clearly aren’t working.

6: Too Many Ads

If the content of the ads themselves are not bothering you, the sheer volume of the ads you’re being exposed to is. Not content with blasting email messages and pop-up ads at you on your phones and tablets, advertisers are trying to cover every conceivable space with some kind of advertising. You look at your hotel room key, there’s an ad on it. You go to the bathroom at the bar, there are ads in there.

You look up at the sky, there’s a sign-writing plane trying to catch your attention. It was once estimated that the average person sees over 1000 ads per day, and that number has certainly not gone down. Perhaps we are more blind to many of them, but it doesn’t stop the outrage at the constant pestering.


You are watching your favorite show, and out of nowhere an ad comes on that is so loud, it shakes the TV and makes you spill your beverage. Loud TV ads have been the cause for many advertising complaints over the years, and the FCC regulated the volume of commercials back in 2011. It didn’t work. There was a loophole, stating that the ad could not be louder than the average volume of the show or movie being aired. Averages, as any statistician will tell you, can be abused. So advertisers can use this data to create very loud openings to commercials, as long as overall the average volume is lower.

There is also evidence that the stations set the volume of shows and movies to take into account the loudest parts (big explosions, loud chase scenes) and the commercials do not. This makes them a great deal louder than the series or movie it follows. Ironically, the louder the ad, the more you hate it. So, it is counter intuitive.

4: Pre-roll on Video Sites

Want to watch this music from the nineties that you really love? No worries, just watch this 30-second ad for home insurance and you’re on your way. Pre-roll video has turned sites like YouTube into mind-numbingly annoying experiences. You have to wait for everything, and often have to watch ad after ad after ad just to watch clip of a cat doing a back-flip. Even worse, the ads seem more prevalent now that YouTube has launched RED, a pay-for service that removes the ads. Now that’s just adding insult to injury.

3: Ads For Medications

Oh, how you hate these. Depending on which channel you watch at home, you can be inundated with ads for heart health, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. But you don’t get a 60 second ad talking about benefits. What you actually get is 20 seconds of bliss, followed by 40 seconds of horrendous side effects that are often worse than the illness being treated.

Ads for medications (known as direct-to-consumer ads) have been a cause of debate in the US since it was legalized in 1997. Only two other countries allow it – New Zealand and Brazil – and it bombards viewers with medication benefits that you must bug your doctor about. However, the majority of other countries agree that medication should not be advertised to consumers, but only to doctors. They can, in turn, assess the pros and cons of prescribing the medication to their customers. There is no reason for it to be on TV, and the baffling legal jargon is clearly getting on your nerves.

2: Stretching The Truth

Lies? Well, not quite. one of common Advertising complaints is that ads not supposed to lie, and the consequences can be severe. Ads can greatly exaggerate to the point of ridiculousness “our meatballs are bigger than your head!” but it’s when the exaggeration is more subtle that you, the customer, gets annoyed.

Beauty products have come under for for this, and rightly so. Ads featuring beautiful women wearing makeup that gives them radiant skin is tempting, but deceptive. Photoshop has been employed in those ads, and the makeup alone did not produce the end result. Women buying those products will not achieve the same results, and that is definitely stretching the truth. You have all seen the same things happening with slimming pills, cleaning products, foods, and even clothing. Try as you might, you cannot get the same results at home, and the reason is simple – the product alone is not responsible for the results shown in ads.

1: Disruption

This is the biggest advertising complaints, period. From the mid-nineties on-wards, disruption has been a key word in advertising. It’s another way of saying, “grab their attention” and for a while there it was the main point in any creative brief. But it has all taken its toll, and now, with the popularity of smart phones, disruption has become about as welcome as a roast pig at a vegan reception. The problem is widespread, and universally condemned by users of phones, laptops, tablets and computers; and the reason is simple – it destroys the user experience.

Waiting for a page to load on your phone, only to find out it is being hijacked by an ad that is taking forever to load, is not only annoying, it’s downright abuse to some people (especially those with data caps). But even with unlimited data, you want your user experience to be quick, smooth, and simple. Log on, get what you want, move on. Disruptive ads kill that, and leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Many of you have talked of abandoning a site simply because the disruptive ads destroyed the interaction.

Outside of technology, disruption is less grating, but can be annoying to the point of anger if used incorrectly. You want to go to the bathroom without seeing ads. You want to walk the streets without being accosted. Guerrilla ads have their place, and if they are contextual, and fun, you are ok. But the overall consensus is “stop interrupting me, I’m sick of it!”


Advertising complaints has not been changed a lot in the recent years but there were several advertising complaints that can be added to this list but now these advertising complaints are more sensitive and more annoying, data privacy, personal information being collected by most of the platforms we use daily, apps that get access to microphones, cameras, and much more advertising complaints.

all this complaints pushed platforms like Google, Youtube and many other platforms to take a stand and regulate data usage in past with GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation)and by the begging of this year COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), talking about nowadays advertising complaints will be covered in coming articles

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