The TV ad created by Mother shows two men, one old and one young, in a garage. The older man is fitting a battery for the younger man’s car. The young man says: "Thanks so much Bob. Let me know if I can ever return the favour," when his car is sorted.
Bob replies: "There is one thing. Pose for me David. I’m tired of painting you from memory." The younger man smiles weakly while Bob stands holding a palette and paintbrush, and the scene ends with the garage door closing on them slowly.
The final shot shows a series of paintings, one with a centaur showing a bare torso and David’s face, others showing sketches of a nude man. On-screen text says: "#WorstFavour. Halfords. We fit. Cheaper than a favour."
Many complainants drew parallels between the ad and the late Jimmy Savile, referencing teenagers being groomed for sexually explicit pictures by paedophiles.
More than 40 people complained about the ad, some challenging whether it was unsuitable for children to see, while many called it sexually suggestive, implying that an older man was taking advantage of a younger man.
Halfords said the ad was part of a series of work based on the theme of unpleasant favours.
It argued that there were "no overt suggestions of sexual activity between the two characters" and the nude sketches within the end frames were normal within the context of standard art sketches. They said the sketches alluded to famous greats such as the culturally acceptable nude form sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Degas.
The Advertising Standards Authority did not uphold the complaints, noting that the overall tone of the ad was meant to be lighthearted and surreal.