Complaints Reports

Television Advertising Complaints Reports

These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Advertising Standards Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.


Complaint from: 150 viewers


NSPCC advertising aimed at encouraging viewers to report suspected abuse of children showed various symbols of childhood (teddy wallpaper, Rupert the Bear mug, Spice Girls magazine cover, Alan Shearer poster) while the voices of unseen adults are heard abusing a child in different ways (screaming hysterically at one; threatening violence against another; humiliating one; preparing to molest another sexually).

46 viewers reported that they had been abused when younger and that they found the reminder too distressing.

Other complainants raised a number of further objections, the most common being:

- that the advertising was too hard-hitting, particularly for children to see;
- that the campaign implied that only parents abuse children;
- that it could encourage abusers by stimulating them or reassuring them that
their reactions are normal.


The ITC had sympathy for those who found the reminders of their own suffering distressing but is generally prepared to allow stronger material to be shown in the context of charity or public service advertising. The ITC’s experience is that most viewers are willing to tolerate uncomfortable viewing if they accept that the advertising is for an important issue, and also the advertisers in these cases are likely to have an understanding of the sensitivities of the groups involved.

The NSPCC explained they had arrangements for offering counselling to those distressed and offered to provide scheduling details to counselling organisations and to other interested parties.

Although the campaign was powerful and emotive, the ITC judged that it was likely to be found generally acceptable, given its objectives. The BACC had restricted the campaign to after 9pm and the ITC judged that this was sufficient to keep the advertising away from younger children who, whether victims of abuse or not, might find it particularly disturbing.

The ITC did not agree that the advertising suggested that only parents abuse children or that it was likely to encourage abuse.

The ITC concluded that the advertising should be allowed to continue.


Complaints not upheld.