DFS escapes censure after dumped sofas ad racks up 70 complaints

LONDON – An ad for DFS where lonely old sofas are seen dumped has resulted in 70 complaints about claims it encouraged and condoned fly-tipping by using footage showing a number of abandoned sofas in public areas.

Viewers, including six regional environment agency employees, complained that the ad, created by PWLC, was irresponsible in encouraging an illegal activity that was harmful to the environment and put a financial burden on local authorities to clean up.

In the ad, which was first aired in June 2004, dirty old sofas are seen abandoned by a busy roadside, in a park, football pitch, under a motorway bridge and dumped in a canal.

Some complainants stated that the background music, 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien' by Edith Piaf, added to the nature of the ad having an underlying message that such behaviour was acceptable.

Many of the complainants said the ad treated fly-tipping in a flippant way and one said that showing a sofa dumped in a canal was  irresponsible as it could lead to blocked waterways and increase the risk of flooding.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that the ad always carried the advice to dispose of sofas responsibly and that no action of fly-tipping was shown, but only the results of sofas being left in unusual places.

On-screen text said "Please dispose of your sofa responsibly" at the start of the ad, and towards the end the caption "new sofa" appeared on screen. The ad ended with the slogan "Think sofas. Think DFS".

The ad watchdog said it did not believe the ad either encouraged or condoned disposing of sofas illegally.

"The ad was unlikely to be seen by most viewers as putting across a serious message about the disposal of unwanted furniture, although we recognised this is what some viewers would have liked to have seen."

Under ASA rules, advertisers are allowed to show anti-social behaviour provided they do not encourage or condone such behaviour or cause widespread offence.

It it not the first time that DFS has landed itself in trouble with viewers. In February, the sofa chain had to amend an ad showing a child somersaulting after parents complained it was potentially dangerous for youngsters who may copy the move and injure themselves.

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