St John Ambulance ad escapes ban

A controversial St John Ambulance television advertisement showing a man choking to death has avoided censure despite attracting almost 150 complaints that it is “offensive and distressing”.

The spot, which launched in September, encourages people to learn first aid. It claims as any people die in situations where first aid could have helped saved their lives as die from cancer each year in a bid to

The two-minute spot, created by BBH, shows the story of a man that survives cancer following treatment but then dies from choking at a family party because no one knows first aid.

A total of 144 people complained the ad was distressing and offensive to people with cancer.

The Advertising Standards Authority, however, has decided not to launch a formal investigation. The post 9pm scheduling coupled with the need to use hard-hitting images to communicate the ad’s serious message meant the shock tactics were justified, according to an ASA spokesman.

Emma Sheppard, head of PR at St John Ambulance, says: “We created this campaign to get people talking about first aid but we wanted to do this in a responsible way, for instance, working with Cancer Research on the cancer journey and airing the ad after 9pm, so we’re pleased the ASA agrees.”

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

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