Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 2009
24 September 2012
2009 was, by any standards, a monumental year, with stories of MPs’ expenses appearing on all of the front pages for months (or what seemed like months), and Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. While not quite as historically significant for the outside world, the ASA’s 2009 Annual report featured some significant internal changes.
Our first ever Independent Reviewer, Sir John Caines KCB stepped down after ten distinguished years’ service, replaced by Sir Hayden Philips, a former Permanent Secretary in Whitehall and the Chairman of the National Theatre.
Guy Parker (previously the ASA’s Director of Complaints and Investigations) was appointed ASA Chief Executive after his predecessor, Christopher Graham, departed to become the UK’s Information Commissioner. Guy was immediately thrown into the Westminster regulatory mêlée in his first week in the job, when he was called to give oral evidence to the House of Commons Health Select Committee to explain the ASA’s work regulating alcohol advertising, which was the subject of increased public scrutiny.
On that note, in 2009 the ASA upheld complaints about a TV ad for Magners cider which pitched the cider as an ice breaker, conversation starter and confidence-builder, and a press ad for Wild Cape Liquor which featured scratch marks next to the strap-line “Unleash your wild side” and was deemed to suggest that alcohol could contribute to sexual success.
As part of our commitment to keeping alcohol ads responsible, we conducted a survey of 456 alcohol ads that appeared during the Christmas period in 2008, with the results revealing a continued increase in rates of compliance (up to 98.9%).
2009 proved an unfortunate year for celebrity endorsements. Complaints about a TV ad for Swiftcover car insurance and a magazine ad for Olay Definity ‘eye illuminator’, featuring Iggy Pop and Twiggy respectively, were both upheld. While Iggy Pop himself was a musician, Swiftcover was not generally available for those in the entertainment industry and the post-production used to portray Twiggy exaggerated the illuminating effects that the product could have on the eyes.
Finally, the ASA dipped its toes into the great metaphysical nebula that surrounds theological debates. Firstly, the British Humanist Association produced a bus ad suggesting, “There’s probably no God,” which received 392 complaints that it was offensive and was misleading because it could not be substantiated. The ASA did not uphold the complaints, deciding that the ad dealt with a concept that by its nature was impossible to substantiate and, because it was a statement of opinion, it was unlikely to offend. In response, the Christian Party’s slogan “There definitely is a God”, which appeared as a bus ad, attracted 1,204 complaints but fell outside our remit as it was considered electioneering material for European elections, meaning that it avoided its Final Judgment by the ASA.
Read our 2009 Annual Report here.