ASA bans Anti-Terrorist ad

A radio commercial created by talkSPORT for the Association of Chief Police Officers has been banned by the Advertising Standards Association for being offensive.

35 people complained about the content, which warned listeners to be suspicious of any male neighbour who kept his curtains closed.

Ten listeners, who believed the ad encouraged people to report law-abiding citizens who acted in the way described in the ad, challenged whether the ad was offensive. 16 listeners, who believed the ad could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours, challenged whether the ad was harmful, and Nine listeners challenged whether the ad made an undue appeal to fear.

The Metropolitan Police, also responding on behalf of The Association of Chief Police Officers, said the ad addressed the issue that terrorists lived within communities and sometimes what appeared to be an insignificant behaviour could potentially be linked to terrorist activities. The MPS said the activities and behaviours in the ad were based on trends identified by police and had been amongst evidence given in court at recent terrorism trials. They said the activity on talkSPORT included two adverts and travel credits and therefore the ad was not heard in isolation but in the context of a wider Anti-Terrorist Hotline awareness-raising campaign.

The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, which cleared the ad, said they did not consider that the ad was offensive because it was a legitimate call to action to help the police, should they see anything suspicious that could comprise a terrorist threat.

The ASA noted that the ad described a man who always paid with cash, did not speak to his neighbours and kept his curtains closed during the day. They noted that description was based on behavioural trends identified by the police, and that the ad suggested that, when taken together, those behaviours could be grounds for suspicion.

However, the ASA considered that the ad could also describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community and we considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive.

"We considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described. We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence," the ASA said.

"On this point the ad breached CAP (Broadcast) Radio Advertising Standards Code section 2 rule 9 (Good taste, decency and offence to public feeling)."

The ad was part of a series of adverts with a similar theme.

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