The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled an email promoting a film called Shifty – a British thriller about a young muslim crack cocaine dealer – was “distressing and irresponsible”.
Visitors to the website promoting the film, which was written and directed by Fran Creevy, were given the option to “stitch up a mate” by entering a friend’s email address. An email was subsequently sent from the address firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Criminal Investigation”.
The person who made the complaint to the watchdog received the email at their work address. The email was in the form of a letter to the recipient and text in the body saying: “In a recent operation a subject was arrested with a quantity of class A drugs in their possession. During the post-arrest interview the suspect supplied your name to us as habitual narcotics user.”
The hoax letter went on to suggest further investigation could be forestalled by clicking on a link to arrange counselling and drug testing. The link led to a website that promoted the film, which was released last year and stars Riz Ahmed, Daniel Mays and Jason Flemyng.
Film distributor Metrodome Group said that it had not realised the ad breached codes of practice and that it amended the email within a few days of launch to state that it was a hoax.
The ASA said that the email could “cause alarm and undue distress”, that the ad was misleading and that the website did not obtain the explicit consent of the email recipient.