Although tackling misleading advertising forms the bulk of our work, complaints about taste and decency are often the most high profile. Our investigations and rulings can result in widespread adverse publicity for the company concerned and advertisers can be required to have posters pre-vetted by us for two years if they publish something offensive.
The advertising rules state ads must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and specifies that special care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age.
Decisions about harm and offence matters are judged based on the context of the ad, the medium in which it appeared, the audience it was targeted at, the product and prevailing standards in society.
We recognise some people might always be offended by certain products or services being advertised regardless of whether the ad itself sticks to the rules, however if the product or service is a legal one then we cannot ban it from being advertised altogether.
As well as being careful not to cause offence, advertisers need to ensure their ads are socially responsible and should not condone or encourage an unsafe practice.
However, it is not completely against the rules to show a dangerous or unsafe practice in an ad as long as most people are likely to understand that the situation depicted should not be imitated - although extra care should be taken if these kinds of ads are likely to be seen by children. For example products that require users to wear protective equipment should depict this in their ads
There are some specific rules linked to safety which advertisers from specific sectors should be aware of, such as those related to motoring. Advertisers should not encourage consumers to drink and drive, drive irresponsibly or break the law, nor should ads depict vehicles in dangerous or unwise situations. Furthermore, it is prohibited for speed or acceleration claims to be the predominant message of motoring ads.