ASA bans insert depicting gruesome death scenes

LONDON - The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad for cleaning specialist Clearway Environmental Services because the real-life images contained in the ad were too graphic and shocking for the everyday consumer.

An insert contained within Inside Housing magazine was headlined "No job too big, no job too awful... Clearway - the specialists in dealing with undiscovered deaths, suicides and bio-hazards."

Beneath this was a large photograph of a bed that showed the outline of a human form, made from the residue of a decomposing body that had been removed. Underneath the picture, the text stated: "Undiscovered deaths, suicides, human and animal faeces..."

The insert also contained smaller photographs of a toilet overflowing with human excrement; a bloodied floor; a bath containing blood residue; and another toilet overflowing with waste.

Three people complained the images in the ad were excessively graphic, offensive and distressing, particularly because the photographs appeared to be real and no warning was given as to the content.

Clearway argued the ad was an accurate portrayal of the work it undertook on a daily basis. The company said it withdrew the ad from circulation when it received complaints about the graphic nature of the photographs.

Inside Housing said it had not seen the ad before its inclusion because it was inserted at the printers. The magazine also said it acted as soon as it received the complaints and said it was reviewing procedures for accepting advertising.

The advertising watchdog acknowledged that Clearway and Inside Housing had taken action in response to the complaints and that Clearway provided a valuable specialist service and should therefore be allowed to advertise its services.

But the complaints were upheld because the images were extremely graphic and were likely to cause serious offence or distress to adults or children who viewed them without warning.

The ASA concluded that the ad was unacceptable in a medium that targeted people who had not specifically requested information about Clearways services and banned the ad in its current form.