U.K. Watchdog Slams Ads Using Jimmy Savile Photos

Jimmy Savile Sex Abuse Scandal and BBC Leadership Crisis
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The BBC has faced one of its biggest image crises since a sexual abuse scandal surrounding late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile rocked the U.K. public broadcaster in September. The former host of BBC music chart show Top of the Pops is believed to have abused mostly young people, including on BBC premises. The BBC was further affected when it emerged that flagship news show Newsnight had dropped a probe into allegations against Savile in late 2011. And when Newsnight in early November also wrongly accused a former politician of abuse, George Entwistle had to resign as director general after only 54 days in the post. Incoming director general Tony Hall will look to repair the damage to the venerable broadcaster's reputation.

The criticism comes after a British magazine company and a clothing firm used pictures of the late BBC host, who sits at the center of a sexual abuse scandal.

LONDON - The British advertising watchdog has criticized a magazine and a clothing company for using photos of Jimmy Savile in email campaigns and banned the ads.

The late ex-BBC host has been at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has drawn much media coverage in the U.K. and that contributed to the early departure of BBC director general George Entwistle after only 54 days in the top post.

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority chastized Extreme Publishing's Trailbike & Enduro Magazine and clothing firm DirtySmart for ads that looked to draw attention and business via Savile references. It said they provoked complaints from consumers saying they were offensive and tried to exploit the media coverage of the Savile scandal.

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The magazine company's email from October used an image of Savile in a chair wearing only what looks to be underwear and smoking a cigar. He is holding a super-imposed issue of TBM magazine.

"Now then, now then," the subject line of the email ad read. The email body said:
"Christmas is coming and what better way of relaxing than to pull up a comfy velour settee, light up a Cuban cigar and finger through a copy of your favourite magazine - delivered direct to your door. TBM ... the publication that doesn't take itself too seriously."

The magazine company noted that ASA had received only two complaints about the email, a small proportion of the about 4,000 people who had received it.

And it said that Savile wore running shorts and not underwear in the image. It also added that riders of trailbikes had to be at least 17 years old and that most of their readers were much older and knew the magazine for having a "humorous, irreverent and direct journalistic style."

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ASA argued though that the ad "was likely to cause serious offense to some" and therefore breached the organization's code.

"We welcomed TBM's assurance that the ad would not appear again," ASA said. "We told them to ensure they prepared their ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and to ensure they did not cause serious or widespread offense."

Meanwhile, DirtySmart sent a pre-Halloween email that gave readers two images to click on. One was that of a Halloween pumpkin and directed people to a 50 percent discount voucher. The other was a cartoon image of Savile's head that jokingly said it would "double the price of everything."

ASA said advertisers can use topical news stories in marketing campaigns, but had to be careful with those "involving allegations about the sexual abuse of children to avoid accusations of exploitation in order to sell products and services."

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It therefore ruled the DirtySmart ad insensitive and likely to cause offense to some.

"The ad must not appear again in its current form," it said in banning potential future uses of the email. "We told DirtySmart to ensure they prepared their ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and to ensure they did not cause serious or widespread offense."

Georg Szalai
international business editor,
The Hollywood Reporter

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