Radio X's Bittersweet Symphony parody ad escapes ban

Radio X's launch ad, which featured Chris Moyles enacting a parody of the 90s music video for Bittersweet Symphony, has escaped a ban by the ads regulator despite drawing dozens of complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority investigated 87 complaints by viewers that the ad, to promote Moyles joining Radio X as its launch presenter, was irresponsible because it condoned antisocial behaviour.

In the ad, created by WCRS, Moyles is shown pushing into a number of people as he walks down the street, while The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony plays as the soundtrack.

Radio X rebranded from XFM in September 2015 and the launch campaign included TV ads on ITV, shown during Rugby World Cup matches, and print ads in Metro and the Evening Standard.

When contacted by the ASA, the station’s owner Global pointed to the fact that the ad was a parody of Bittersweet Symphony and was a humorous play on Moyles’ reputation.  

Global also said the video featured inexplicably comical characters, such as a charity worker wearing a rabbit costume and a woman holding a wedding cake in the street, and pointed to Moyles walking through a brick wall as evidence of the ad’s slapstick nature. 

In its ruling, published today, the ASA said some viewers would be unlikely to recognise the parody element of the ad, but accepted the surreal scenario of the ad made it unlikely viewers would interpret it as an acceptable or realistic way to behave. 

It said: "We acknowledged that his actions in the ad were likely to be seen as unpleasant, but we considered that the context in which it was shown meant viewers were unlikely to interpret it as realistic and as an acceptable way to behave. 

"In the particular circumstances of the ad, we concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or be seen to encourage or condone anti-social behaviour or bullying."

The ASA also rejected complaints that the ad was inappropriately scheduled before the watershed and recommended that no further action was necessary.