A website for personal alarms, www.safepersonalalarm.com, seen on 10 August 2018, featured an advertorial written in the style of a news story. This was headed "Tragic Girl's Life Could Have Been Saved Using Simple Device" and underneath a photo of a man and girl. Text stated "London, UK". The advertorial described how the daughter of the person who had developed the product had gone missing six years previously and how his idea for creating the product had arisen from that.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, played on people's fears and amounted to scaremongering.
Safe Personal Alarm did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Safe Personal Alarm's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of the CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We noted that the advertorial was in the style of a news story and described how a young girl, the daughter of the inventor of the product, had gone missing from a shopping centre, and was presumed to have been abducted. The story described how there was blood at the scene and that an analysis of the blood showed it was the girl's. Text stated "The number-one reason that leads to successful kidnappings is the victim isn't or cannot make noise ... The kidnapper tries to keep the victim's mouth shut ... 'The ability to make noise is crucial in a kidnapping situation', the police say ...". The advertorial then described the functionality of the product.
We understood that the complainant believed the events described in the advertorial were fictitious. We were unable to establish whether that was the case, but nevertheless, we considered that the highly emotive subject matter in the article, including the headline "Tragic Girl's Life Could Have Been Saved Using Simple Device" and the description of how the young girl had been abducted, was likely to play on the fears of, and cause distress to, some readers. Whilst we recognised that the device was intended for personal safety, we considered that its function could be clearly explained without using such emotive language. We therefore considered the approach taken, and the distress it caused, was not justifiable. Because of that, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Safe Personal Alarm to ensure their future ads were prepared with a sense of responsibility and did not cause distress. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.