ASA reveals rise in complaints against violent advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority says complaints about aggressive imagery in advertising rose in the wake of the murders last year of headmaster Philip Lawrence and of the schoolchildren in Dunblane.

These complaints went up by ten per cent in 1996 compared with 1995, and, according to this month’s report from the ASA, it is increasingly clear that the public finds the use of violent images tasteless and unacceptable.

Caroline Crawford, ASA director of communications, says: “We would draw the attention of the marketing community to the fact that in the current climate the public is very sensitive to approaches that may be seen as aggressive or anti-social.”

She says advertising for videos, computer games and the rather aggressive terrace humour used to promote some football magazines have all prompted complaints in the past year.

Other issues raised in the report include a national press advertisement for the Scottish Courage beer brand Beck’s through Barker & Ralston, which prompted complaints from the European Commission, the European Movement and an MEP. The ad claims Brussels has decreed all “bier” must be brewed with an inferior standardised water, and was judged to be misleading by the authority, which thought readers would probably take it seriously. Other ads in the campaign were seen as more clearly humorous and unlikely to mislead.

The ASA dismissed an objection to a cinema ad for Tango through HHCL & Partners featuring a man dressing in a wet-suit and watching a video featuring the Tango can. It was criticised for being tasteless, distressing and disturbing. The advertisers argued research had shown the ad was widely seen as lighthearted and entertaining, and had been granted a 15 certificate.

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