'Distressing' Crimestoppers OOH ad banned for showing disembodied heart

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'Distressing' Crimestoppers OOH ad banned for showing disembodied heart

A hard-hitting OOH campaign by Crimestoppers has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being likely to cause “unjustifiable distress”. 

The poster, which featured a human heart grasped in bloodied hands with drips of blood running down the fingers stated ‘BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Don’t let drugs and violence rip the heart out of your community’. It contained the Crimestoppers phone number and called on viewers to speak out against those committing violent crimes. 

Two people complained after seeing the ad in Rugby, Warwickshire, saying that it was likely to cause distress, particularly to children, and that it was inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted setting. 

The ASA upheld the complaints and said that the OOH drive gave “the impression that the heart had been ripped out of an individual’s chest,” and said that some some individuals, especially children wouldn’t understand the rationale behind the image.

“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,” added the watchdog.

While Crimestoppers acknowledged that the artwork could be perceived as “controversial” and apologised for any upset caused, the anti-crime organisation pointed out that it had been designed in response to drug related violence.

The charity, which allows people to report crimes anonymously, said that a similar poster using the same artwork with different wording had been displayed in Suffolk with “significant” results, drawing in 66 calls on gang-related crime. In light of this success the non-profit said it felt it would be “safe” to use the same photograph in the Warwickshire campaign.

JC Decaux, who owned the sites where the ads appeared, said it had not received any direct complaints about the ads.


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