Spotlight: Can you guess the most complained about ad in ASA history?

Sep 15th '23

In November 2006, consumers were surprised to find an unexpected form of direct mail in their letterbox.


The Hell Pizza promotion for their Lust pizza went to over 170,000 homes surrounding Hell Pizza stores and consisted of a cardboard wallet containing a condom, instructions for use, the Hell Pizza logo and phrase, “Our pizza for meat lovers!”.


The New Zealand (ASA) received 685 complaints about this advertisement, with concerns ranging from offensiveness, poor taste and decency, undermining family values, and health and safety risks relating to the risks of the condom being damaged in this form of packaging.


The Complaints Board deliberation centered around the choice of medium for the campaign. The Board noted the importance of educating the right audience about the importance of safe sex, but as the campaign was delivered straight to letterboxes, the condom could be accessed by any member of a household and was not restricted to a specific age group. The Board noted this failure to target the advertisement to the appropriate audience indicated an intent to promote the product and brand, rather than the awareness of safe sex and condom use the Advertiser had claimed in their response.


The Board found the advertisement had not been placed with a due sense of social responsibility, noting the use of a condom to promote a food product through a method of unsolicited, unaddressed delivery would be likely to cause serious and widespread offence in a number of communities.


The Complaints Board upheld the complaint, and the advertisement has not been used again. To view the full Hell Pizza decision, click here.


With 685 complaints, this advertisement still holds the place as the most complained about ad in ASA history. In 2006, the ASA received over 1500 complaints, and this remains the most complaints we have handled in any calendar year.


Source: ASA


About the ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is an organisation that investigates breaches of advertising standards in New Zealand. The ASA provides a free complaints process for consumers about the content and placement of advertisements. In assessing complaints, the ASA apply the ASA Advertising Codes.


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