ASA bans DoH ‘hooked’ anti-smoking campaign


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a Government ad for the first time in five years.

Despite conceding that smoking is the UK’s single-biggest cause of preventable illness and early death in the UK, the ASA decided that the £7m ad campaign for the Department of Health’s anti-smoking campaign featuring graphic pictures of people with fish-hooks in their mouths were distressing and upsetting, especially for children.

The campaign triggered 774 complaints. The “Get Unhooked” campaign was created by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and ran across television, poster, national press and magazines, and online.

One TV execution showed a woman doing the laundry as a child watched TV. She told the child: “Ten more minutes then homework, yeah?” A hook then appeared in her mouth and she was subsequently dragged across the floor into another room by a wire attached to the hook. The ad also showed a man suffering a similar fate and ended with the line “Get unhooked”. Both had “follow up” slots in the same break.

The poster executions featured similar imagery and viewers and consumers complained that both the TV and poster executions were distressing to them and their children.

The TV ads did have an timing restrictions to avoid child viewers and the BACC had been aware of the potential to scare children. However, the ASA decided that despite the fact the TV ads and posters highlight the perils of smoking, they were likely to frighten and distress children.

Last year a press ad for HM Revenue and Customs showing what appeared to be a self-employed plumber evading tax by hiding under the kitchen sink was the second most complained-about ad of 2006. It attracted 271 complaints. But the complaints were not upheld.

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