‘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.

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