ASA blasts Virgin Mobile for ‘aggressive’ letter-style ads

The advertising watchdog has upheld a raft of complaints about an insert for Virgin Mobile in the form of an “aggressive” handwritten letter.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with 125 complainants, many of them from trading standards departments, that the insert was likely to cause fear and distress because of its aggressive tone and use of expletives such as “bleedin” and “naff off”.

It said the insert, created by Rainey Kelley Campbell Roalfe/ Y&R, was misleading because it was not immediately clear that the fictional letter, from a dissatisfied mobile phone user transferring his business to Virgin Mobile, was an ad. Virgin Mobile defended the ad, saying it was intended to be “a novel humorous attempt at asking people to question their current mobile phone network”, but it was asked to consult the CAP copy advice team before using similar advertising in the future.

The ASA also upheld 15 complaints about a press and poster campaign for Royal & Sun Alliance which takes the form of an appeal from the owner of a lost dog.

The ad showed a photograph of a dog above the headline “Where’s Lucky?” and gave a phone number and website for people with information to contact.

The authority upheld the complaints on the grounds that it could distress people who thought the appeal was genuine.

McDonald’s has also been asked to withdraw a poster ad for its Cadbury’s Caramel McFlurry, for wrongly implying that the caramel sauce used was the same as in Cadbury’s chocolate bars.

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