‘Distressing’ Crimestoppers ad banned

A hard-hitting outdoor ad campaign by Crimestoppers has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being likely to cause “unjustifiable distress”.

The large-format poster pictured a human heart grasped in bloodied hands with drips of blood running down the fingers. The aim of the ad was to encourage people to speak out against those committing violent crimes, with the Crimestoppers contact detail featuring prominently on the ad.

The ASA received two complaints after the poster was erected in Rugby, claiming it was likely to cause distress, particularly to children. The complainants also said the ad was inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted setting.


Complaints upheld

The ASA upheld the complaints, stating that the posters gave “the impression that the heart had been ripped out of an individual’s chest,” and said that some some individuals wouldn’t understand the rationale behind the image. As a result the charity has been banned from using the artwork again in its current form.

In a statement the ASA said: “While we acknowledged the positive intention behind the campaign and understood that the image had been used to emphasise the serious implications of violent crime, we considered that the image was not directly relevant to crime or the overriding message of the campaign.

“For those reasons, we considered that the ad was likely to cause unjustifiable distress when displayed in an untargeted medium and concluded that it breached the Code.”


Significant results

Crimestoppers responded by acknowledging that the artwork could be perceived as controversial and apologised for any upset caused.

The anti-crime charity pointed out that it had been designed in response to drug related violence and said that a similar poster using the same artwork with different wording had been displayed in Suffolk with “significant” results, drawing in 66 calls on gang-related crime.

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