Commercials rapped by ITC for inaccuracy

McDonald's, Freeserve and The People were among the advertisers rapped by the Independent Television Commission this month following complaints about their ad campaigns.

McDonald's was found guilty of running a campaign advertising a product that did not resemble what was found in its restaurants.

The ads, through Leo Burnett, were for Steak Premieres, billed as a "steak in ciabatta with chargrilled peppers, onions and a black pepper mayo".

However, four viewers complained to the ITC that the product shown in the advertisement differed from the ones they had bought. They reported that it was flat, not as well filled with peppers and onions and that the consistency of the dressing was thinner than shown in the ad. One viewer claimed the steak was smaller that that advertised.

Burnett, through the BACC, said that McDonald's had issued guidelines on the preparation of the Steak Premiere to ensure that there was consistency across its restaurants. When making the ad, Burnett said it had adhered to these guidelines and had consulted with McDonald's to ensure that the product represented was what would be available to customers.

However, after conducting its own tests, the ITC found that there was disparity between the quantity of toppings in the Steak Premieres and the TV ad. McDonald's reiterated that the volume of toppings was the same as available in the shot but that a proportion had been moved to the edge of the product for filming. The ITC ruled that this method of presentation was misleading and that the ad should not be shown again.

M&C Saatchi was chastised for an ad for The People's Playboy Calendar, which featured shots of partially clothed women. Viewers objected that these shots were unsuitable, particularly before 9pm, when children could be watching.

Because weekend newspaper advertising is not always completed in time for the BACC to formally approve, the ad had been given approval on the proviso that it was not shown around programmes made for children.

However, when the BACC had been given the completed ad and once it had been transmitted, it retrospectively judged that it was only suitable for showing after the 9pm watershed. The ITC upheld the complaints and said that the BACC had been wrong to provisionally approve it.

M&C Saatchi was also rapped for a Freeserve ad which asked viewers to join Freeserve "because we've doubled our network capacity so you can enjoy the freedom of a more reliable internet connection".

This ad had run from January to June 2002 and was shown again from September 2002. Two complainants said it was misleading because it gave the impression that Freeserve had doubled its capacity a second time, when in fact it had only done so once.

The ITC required the ad to be amended before any future broadcasts.

The BACC said that it considered it reasonable for Freeserve to continue to make the claim a second time but the ITC ruled that this was misleading because the internet industry was particularly fast moving. The ITC required the advertising to be amended before any future broadcasts.

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