Tragedy sparks ad chaos

Top advertisers react to Princess of Wales’ death with mass cancellation of potentially offensive ads.

Media schedules changed instantly this week as broadcasters pulled potentially offensive advertising and programming in the wake of Diana, Princess of Wales’ death. ITV has cancelled much of the advertising on Saturday, the day of the funeral.

Broadcasters reacted immediately to Sunday’s tragedy, withdrawing ads for certain products or with certain creative treatments they feared would upset the public. Channel 4 received complaints from the public for running ads on Sunday.

Car manufacturers, insurers including Allied Dunbar which runs an ad featuring the Grim Reaper, travel companies including British Airways, and various companies running humorous ads decided to delay commercials until after the Princess’s funeral on Saturday.

Mercedes-Benz, the maker of the car in which Diana was fatally injured, was one of the first of numerous car makers to delay all its advertising – which featured a picture of a Mercedes with the endline “Consider your prayers answered” – together with Renault, which famously runs ads for the Clio, set in Paris featuring the young Frenchwoman Nicole. Drinks manufacturers followed suit when it emerged the driver of the speeding car was drunk.

ITV dropped Cadbury’s bumper breaks for Coronation Street on Sunday and the chocolate maker has decided to run only the animation for the Roses brand this week – it will also drop the strapline “The Nation’s Favourite”, since it deemed it unsuitable.

A Government ad campaign urging motorists to “Kill Your Speed” could also be delayed from its schedule start date of September 16.

Virginia Lee of the Independent Television Commission says any lost minutage as a result of rolling news coverage will be recouped in future weeks. “There is nothing we can compare this with. There has never been any real parallel. There is nothing in black and white to legislate for a national disaster,” she says.

But Bruce Haines, chief executive of ad agency Leagas Delaney, who worked with Princess Diana on a cancer charity appeal criticised the moves: “To assume that people would be remotely upset by any car ads, with the exception of Mercedes, is a gross over-reaction. The Princess of Wales would find it rather amusing, I think,” he says.

Media, page 12

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