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 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.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
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 must not appear again in its current form. We told Crimestoppers Trust to ensure their marketing did not cause undue distress in future.