Three issues were investigated of which three were Not Upheld.
A DVD case, sent as a direct mailing from a children's charity, viewed in December 2011, featured text which stated: "KERRY'S FATHER ASKED HER TO DO THE UNTHINKABLE. AND THEN HE FILMED IT". The reverse of the box included the name and address of the recipient and the NSPCC details. The leaflet, inside the DVD case, included further information about ChildLine and a donation form. The leaflet stated: "THE FOOTAGE OF KERRY IS NOW WITH THE POLICE. AS IS HER FATHER. BECAUSE SHE WAS ABLE TO TALK TO CHILDLINE".
1. Seven complainants objected that the text on the cover of the DVD case was disturbing and offensive.
2. One complainant objected that the text on the cover of the DVD case could cause distress to individuals who had suffered abuse.
3. One complainant objected that the DVD case was inappropriate for children to see.
1. The National Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said they relied on mailings generating a good level of response from donors and it was therefore important that the mailing stood out. They said the pack recounted the experiences of two children and drew on real examples of the NSPCC's work. They said it was their policy to be truthful about their services and challenges faced by children and young people. They said the wording on the outside of the DVD case did not contain details of the abuse that the child had suffered.
2. The NSPCC acknowledged that reading about the issues that they dealt with might cause distress, but pointed out that the nature of the work was distressing.
3. The NSPCC said they made every effort to ensure that the mailing was addressed only to individuals over the age of 18 years. They said the mailing was personally addressed and the wording on the outside of the DVD case did not contain details of the abuse that the child had suffered. They also said the DVD box was sealed with a clear sticker so that it was difficult for younger children to open.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the NSPCC aimed to raise awareness of the issue of child abuse and that such a distressing subject was likely to cause discomfort when presented in any medium. Nevertheless, we took the view that any discomfort inherent in the subject of child abuse ought to be balanced by the worthwhile purpose of raising awareness of it. We considered that recipients were likely to understand the importance of the issue the mailing presented and that individuals who had suffered abuse would be likely to appreciate the work of the NSPCC and the message contained within it.
We noted that the DVD case was personally addressed to the intended recipient and that the NSPCC logo appeared beneath the address. We also acknowledged that text on the front cover of the DVD did not provide details of the abuse that the child had suffered.
In that context, we considered that the ad made clear its intended purpose, but was not likely to cause excessive distress or serious or widespread offence.
On points 1. & 2., we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. and 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and offence) but did not find it to be in breach.
3. Not upheld
We noted the complainant did not state that children had been distressed by the ad and that the NSPCC had attempted to ensure that the mailing was personally addressed only to individuals over the age of 18 years. We also noted the wording on the outside of the DVD case did not contain specific details of the abuse the child had suffered and, whilst we considered that adults would understand the references on the DVD case, we considered it unlikely that children would.
Because the NSPCC had taken steps to target their mailing, and because children were unlikely to understand the message given by the text, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause harm to children and was not irresponsible.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising) but did not find it to be in breach.
No further action necessary.