Two unrelated adverts which referred to Jimmy Savile have been ruled harmful and offensive following complaints that they made light of allegations of sexual abuse against the disgraced TV presenter.
An email for clothing company DirtySmart read “Choose your fate” with arrows pointing to a cartoon image of Savile. One person complained that the ad was offensive and irresponsible because it made light of the allegations under investigation.
Another email for Extreme Publishing read “How’s about that then” in large print above a black and white image of Savile wearing underwear and smoking a cigar with a superimposed copy of a magazine in his hand. Two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible in view of recent media coverage surrounding the abuse allegations.
DirtySmart acknowledged that some people may have found the cartoon image of Savile distasteful but they considered it would not cause serious or widespread offence.
Extreme Publishing, trading as TBM Magazine, said it did not intend to offend or upset anyone by sending the email. The image of Savile, which it said showed him wearing running shorts and not underwear, was “not distasteful in and of itself because pictures of him were prevalent in the media at the time”, it said.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said advertisers are entitled to refer to current news stories but that they need to take particular care in how such stories are used, especially those involving allegations about the sexual abuse of children, to avoid accusations of exploitation in order to sell products or services.
“We considered that the overall tone of the ad was light-hearted and that that approach was likely to be seen as insensitive by its recipients when used in conjunction with references to Jimmy Savile, given the media climate at that time,” the ASA said.
“We also considered that, particularly in view of the email’s subject line, the accompanying text and the large image of Jimmy Savile, who was seen reclining in an armchair wearing few clothes, it was likely to cause serious offence to some. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the code.”
In relation to DirtySmart, it said: “We considered the statement ‘choose your fate’ with a choice between clicking on the image of a Halloween pumpkin or Jimmy Savile was likely to be seen as insensitive by recipients and was likely to cause serious offence to some.”
Rulings for both ads read: “We told them 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.”