Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

UK's Advertising Watchdog Agency Tells Companies Not To Use Images of Late Host In Ad Campaigns

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told a number of advertisers that they may not use images of the late Jimmy Savile in advertising campaigns. Numerous accusations of sexual abuse have been lodged against Mr. Savile, and the BBC has been criticized heavily for dropping an investigation into his behavior. As a result the newly installed Director of the BBC stepped down from his post last year.

Here's a link to the ASA's ruling on one such ad for DirtySmart, Ltd., a clothing company. The ASA said in part:

DirtySmart said the e-mail did not make light of allegations of sexual abuse made against Jimmy Savile, and there was no reference to ongoing investigations. They said they had not intended to cause offence, and were simply using a topical image. The opening line "Hello young raver" was the opening line used in all of their newsletters. They added that their database was opt-in and opt-out, so users were free to unsubscribe at any point. They acknowledged that some people may have found the cartoon image of Jimmy Savile distasteful, but they considered it would not cause serious or widespread offence.


The ASA acknowledged that advertisers were entitled to refer to current news stories, but noted the need for particular care in how such stories were used, especially those involving allegations about the sexual abuse of children, to avoid accusations of exploitation in order to sell products or services. Whilst the e-mail did not directly refer to the allegations against Jimmy Savile, we considered it was clear that his image had been used because of the ongoing public awareness about those allegations. In that context, we considered the statement "CHOOSE YOUR FATE" with a choice between clicking on the image of a Halloween pumpkin or Jimmy Savile as a "Trick or Treat" was likely to be seen as insensitive by recipients and was likely to cause serious offence to some. We concluded the ad breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).



The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told DirtySmart to ensure they prepared their ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and to ensure they did not cause serious or widespread offence.

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