Watchdog rap for Take a Break ad

Television watchdogs have admitted a commercial showing a meals-on-wheels driver keeping an old lady waiting while she reads a magazine should never have gone on air.

A total of 318 complaints were made to the Independent Television Commission, claiming the spot for H Bauer's Take a Break magazine was a cheap joke made at the expense of elderly people.

The ruling follows an acknowledgment by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre that it had blundered in allowing the film, created by Mustoes, to be broadcast.

The commercial showed the driver reading the magazine while parked outside a block of flats. A voiceover said: "Whatever you're doing, it can wait while you Take a Break." The old woman was left waiting in her bleak kitchen, an empty plate in front of her, for her meal to be delivered.

Care workers and three charities complained the ad could not only induce anxiety among elderly people about the reliability of social services, but also denigrated the meals-on-wheels operation.

The commercial, which was scheduled to run for three days, was withdrawn after two. An ITC executive said: "The volume of complaints was unusual given that the commercial ran for a very short period. What's more, the majority of the complaints were from individuals and not from members of particular groups."

H Bauer said it had not set out to offend anyone, and has since made a donation to Help The Aged.

BMP DDB's "lifeguard kiss" for Marmite, featuring a beach lifeguard who had just eaten a Marmite sandwich giving the kiss of life to an unconscious swimmer, also courted controversy. The ITC received a hefty 71 complaints from viewers saying it portrayed a homosexual act, claiming it was unsuitable for broadcast at times when children might be watching.

Nick Mustoe, the agency's chief executive, said: "We knew the ad was a bit edgier than what we'd done before, but it was no more contentious than other things on TV."