‘Dead rat’ ad receives watchdog’s approval

Pfizer’s cinema campaign to highlight the dangers of buying prescription-only medicines over the internet has been cleared of both being likely to cause distress and of being offensive by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ad shows graphic images of a man regurgitating a dead rat from his mouth after taking a tablet. The ad was created by Langland and uses the strapline “Get real. Get a prescription”.

The watchdog received 64 complaints from people who found the ad unduly distressing and offensive but says the “hard-hitting” imagery is justified.

“Because the ad was designed to highlight an important issue, the dangers of which could result in damage to health or in fatality, we considered the metaphor of regurgitating a rat was likely to justify, for most people, the approach,” the ASA says.

The watchdog adds the scheduling of the cinema campaign, which ran before 15 or 18-rated movies only, was sufficient to limit the number of young people who saw it.

A spokesman for Pfizer says it is “pleased” with the ruling. “We are convinced that alerting people to this danger is a responsible course of action. We’ve gone to considerable lengths to try and guide people towards safer sources of prescription medicines, and that campaign will continue,” he says.

Pfizer has posted a “making of the ad” video on YouTube to explain the reasons behind the campaign and how the graphic images were achieved.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here