A TV advert for Kayak depicting an operating theatre where a surgeon is conducting brain surgery prompted 441 complaints to the advertising watchdog.
The Advertising Standards Authority banned the ad from being broadcast again in its present form.
Some who complained described the advert as offensive while others with family members about to or just having had brain surgery challenged whether the advert was distressing and deeply upsetting.
Twenty-five were concerned that the ad could be distressing to children, while 16 claimed it was insulting to surgeons and the medical profession in general.
The Advertising Standards Authority investigated four issues related to the ad, one of which one was upheld and three were rejected.
Kayak argued that the advert was so obviously a parody that it was not offensive.
“It portrayed a situation that was completely absurd in an attempt to make a point about the misguided lengths to find travel deals when, instead, they could have contacted Kayak,” the company told the ASA.
Upholding one of the four issues raised, the ASA said: “We considered the ad's flippant treatment of a serious and recognisably real situation was likely to cause distress and serious offence to those viewers who had been affected by the type of operation depicted in the ad.
“We considered the ad was likely to cause distress without justifiable reason and serious offence to some viewers and therefore concluded it breached the [advertising] Code.”
However, the ASA concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause harm to children and that it was not likely to cause widespread offence.
The ASA added: “We considered viewers would understand the comic intention and that it was not a realistic portrayal of an operation and was unlikely to damage the reputation of doctors or the medical profession.”
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