ASA Adjudication on R&D Media Europe BV
R&D Media Europe BV t/a
Max Euweplein 32
1017 MB Amsterdam
17 September 2008
Internet (display), Internet (website content)
Number of complaints:
An Internet ad on YouTube, for a mobile phone ringtone, was headlined "MEET ACHMED" and depicted a skull with red eyes. He was wearing a white head dress and text in a speech bubble stated "SILENCE!! I KILL YOU". A text box stated "Click here".
1. Four complainants objected that the ad was deeply offensive and disrespectful to the Muslim religion.
2. Two of the complainants felt it was offensive and insensitive to those who had been victims of terrorism.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Xtendmedia, an online media solutions provider, responded on behalf of Glomobi. They pointed out that the ad depicted Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a character who featured in a comedy show of the same name. They said the American Comedy Award winner Jeff Dunham used the ventriloquist skeleton to perform comedy routines. Xtendmedia said the show itself was very popular and videos of Achmed the Dead Terrorist had been viewed 54 million times on YouTube.
They said they took steps to target users who were aware of the show and therefore likely to download the ringtone. In the UK those targeted were 18 to 25 years of age, and Xtendmedia felt such users would find the ad humorous, particularly if they were aware of the context.
Xtendmedia suggested the ad had been approved by Google, and YouTube had not had any reason to remove the video from the site.
1. Xtendmedia said the character bore no relation to the Muslim religion and pointed out that in the show Achmed believed he was not Muslim because he was stamped with "made in China". They stated that comedy dealt with contemporary issues, terrorism being one such issue, and Internet users sympathised with Achmed once they were familiar with his thoughts and fears.
2. Xtendmedia felt the ad was not insensitive to victims of terrorism because the humour was only about the character and not the victims or results of any terrorist act. They said their agency was based in Israel where it was necessary to be more sensitive than usual to victims of terrorism.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted Xtendmedia suggested Google had approved the ad. We understood, however, from Google that, although they ran automated checks on certain ads, they did not approve the content and each advertiser was responsible for ensuring an ad complied with all relevant regulations.
We noted the ad was for a ringtone related to a comedy character that was well known in the USA and that the video of Achmed the dead terrorist had been viewed on YouTube over 54 million times worldwide.
We noted comedy touched on contemporary issues including terrorism. We also noted Xtendmedia said they had taken steps to target users who would be aware of the show and would find the ad humorous.
We considered that, whether or not viewers were aware of the show, some may find the character and the comedy theme of terrorism distasteful or offensive. We considered, however, the part of Achmeds head dress shown in the ad was not recognisable as belonging to any religious tradition. We considered that the text "SILENCE!! I KILL YOU" would be viewed as light hearted and was unlikely to be seen as a serious threat. We considered that the ad was an accurate representation of the product and concluded that because the ad itself contained no direct reference to terrorism or the Muslim religion, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to viewers of YouTube.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 5.1 and 5.2 (Decency) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)