The Independent Television Commission has pulled the plug on Bartle
Bogle Hegarty’s ads for Emap’s weekly entertainment magazine, Heat,
after receiving more than 300 complaints.
The ads, which launched the magazine, show people reading Heat and
becoming engulfed by flames. Although the actors remain unaffected by
the fires, viewers found the ads disturbing.
Most complaints referred to the shocking imagery and many commented on
the scheduling of the ads before the watershed and the fact that the
campaign could have a harmful effect on children.
A significant number of objections related to viewers’ own experiences
of fire: many had either been in a fire or had lost relatives in a
According to the ITC, ’It appeared from some of these complaints that a
significant degree of distress had been caused.’
The ITC said it had always accepted that it is necessary to apply
different standards to the treatment of shocking or potentially
offensive material in ads as opposed to in programmes. With programmes,
viewers usually have some preconception of the material they are likely
to see; with ads, however, viewers have no foreknowledge of what images
will appear on their screens.
In the case of the Heat campaign, the ITC decided that the distress
caused went beyond what could be justified in television advertising and
requested that the commercials be withdrawn from 30 March.