From reading AdvertisingBollocks I had a little perusal of the ASA FAQs to see why they would be so perverse as to make a decision to ban an advert shown mistakenly at a ungoddly hour of the morning on a extremely specialist channel due to a single complaint.
Here is the relevant FAQ.
How can the ASA ban an ad after only one complaint?
The ASA does not play a numbers game. If an ad is found in breach of the rules it is in breach irrespective of how many people have complained about it.
It can take just one complaint for the ASA to launch an investigation, the result of which can be that an ad has to be withdrawn. The ASA considers the validity of the complaint and measures the ad against the Codes when assessing whether an ad is likely to be misleading, harmful or offensive.
So they don’t play the numbers game in terms of complaints. A single complaint has as much validity as 10,000 complaints. However they don’t seem to play the numbers game of how many people have actually seen the cause of the complaint. They should do though because one of the points they take into account if the advert was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Doesn’t widespread imply a lot of people watching the advert at fault? They also seem to use a bit of psychic mind reading to work out if the advert would cause offence. They must do this because they don’t take into account numbers of viewers so they don’t actually know if widespread offence has been caused.
They also don’t seem to take into account frivolous complaints or act in a common sense manner. Both of which bring the organisation into disrepute because making silly rulings which can be laughed at demeans the organisation as a whole and also demeans any future rulings which might actually be valid and proper. A bit like when police are called into minor neighbour squabbles over pruned branches and alledgedly arrest one of them when the common sense answer is to give both sides a good talking too. Such actions make the police seem petty and target seeking rather than actually performing their rule of upholding the law fairly.
Is it fair that a company can be potentially fined and/or forced to change their procedures because one overly sensitive person took offence to an advert? In these times where everyone takes offence about anything it is a dangerous route to take as it leads to the tyranny of the minority.
This leads to perverse situations because of complaints due to single issues or mistakes. For instance there was the case, not ASA related, of the pensioner who stuck a sign in his window saying “Get the lot out” during the election who was visited by the police due to a single complaint. A complaint made in error. The error being that it was about MPs and not blacks as was assumed because the letters were written in blue and red on a white background. He nearly got arrested before someone saw sense.
Back to the advert in question. An advert for an adult film seen by one person which included text for a premium rate phone number shown on an adult TV channel at half past 6 in the morning by mistake in a restricted section of the Sky TV EPG (which can be set up to require a PIN for access) and which could not be shown soon after due to the change in the law with regards premium rate phone numbers was banned from being shown again. Perverse or what? At least the channel in question wasn’t fined for making a mistake. But to ban an advert which can’t be shown again is like telling a child not to eat the sweets when they’ve eaten all the sweets already. Silly!
How do I know only one person saw the advert? Because there was only one complaint!