A Poster for Crimestoppers, seen on the station platform and on a phone box in Rugby, on 29 October and 16 November 2015 respectively, stated "BREAK YOUR SILENCE Don't let drugs and violence rip the heart out of your community" and included an image of bloodied hands holding a heart.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was likely to cause distress, particularly to children, and was therefore inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted medium.
Crimestoppers Trust said the campaign was designed in response to drug related violence, which was a problem in some local areas. They said, generally, people were reluctant to give information about such crime, either through fear or misguided loyalty, which was why they felt a hard-hitting image that would make people think and to prompt a response was required.
They stated that the campaign in Warwickshire was launched following the success of a similar project run in the Ipswich area of Suffolk, to tackle the issue of gang related crime. The same artwork was used, but with different wording. The impact in Suffolk was significant and they did not receive any complaints. In light of that campaign, they felt it would be safe to use the same artwork and similar text to reach target areas in Warwickshire. In the three months that the campaign ran, they received 66 pieces of information regarding drug related crime, which accounted for over a third of all information received on crime in the county over that period.
Crimestoppers acknowledged that the artwork could be perceived as controversial and were sorry that it had caused distress. They strove to walk the line between effective and potentially difficult imagery in the artwork they used, and said the last thing they wanted to do was alienate members of the public.
JC Decaux, who owned the sites where the ads appeared, said the ads were not subject to any prohibitions and did not contravene local guidelines. They had not received any complaints directly about the ads.
The ASA noted that the image in the ad featured a human heart grasped in bloodied hands, with drips of blood running down the fingers. The image was also accompanied with the claim “Don’t let drugs and violence rip the heart out of your community” which enhanced the impression that the heart had been ripped out of an individual’s chest. We considered that some individuals, particularly children, who would not necessarily understand the rationale behind the image, might find the bloody image upsetting because of its graphic nature. 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.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Crimestoppers Trust to ensure their marketing did not cause undue distress in future.