ANALYSIS: Has the ASA got it right on taste?

Public tolerance of ‘shock’ ads seems higher than the press or some politicians would have us believe. Sharon Marshall reports

Public tolerance of ‘shock’ ads seems higher than the press or some

politicians would have us believe. Sharon Marshall reports

The chairman of the British Safety Council apologised last week for any

offence caused by using Charles and Di’s wedding pics to illustrate its

call to use condoms.

It was rather an odd apology. The BSC attributed the campaign to its

director general, James Tye, who died the week before. ‘In his absence,

the board of governors feels it really cannot support such a

controversial poster.’

It may be apologising, but resultant press coverage wasn’t bad

considering its tiny marketing budget. The Charles and Di image was not

used in an ad. Posters were distributed to clinics, but the most

important destination was the national press, which ran them for free.

Last week, the ASA conference unveiled the results of a public survey

which suggests the BSC may be worrying unduly. In line with the ASA

rulings, disrespect for death, religion, unsuitable images for children

and bad language were all thought to be no-go areas.

In contrast, the Wonderbra ads, which made headlines but were approved

by the ASA, were acceptable to 81% of people. Club 18-30’s Beaver Espana

ads, which the ASA banned, were disapproved of by 59%.

‘It’s really not fashionable to like the ASA. We do offer a pre-public

advice system but people often feel we would just say ‘no’,’ says

spokeswoman Caroline Crawford.

There were 30 million press ads last year, 96% of which complied with

ASA codes, a rate which ought to be indicative of the fact that the

industry can regulate itself.


Top ten advertisers by complaints


British Safety Council                   1192     (upheld)

Club 18-30                                490     (upheld)

International Fund for Animal Welfare     270     (upheld)

Gallaher Tobacco                          251     (upheld)

Warner Bros                               207     (not upheld)

Moore Laboratories                        167     (upheld)

RSPCA                                     100     (not upheld)

Health & Home Shopping                     76     (upheld)

Air Miles Travel Promotion                 58     (upheld)

Playboy TV                                 70     (not upheld)