We Can Scare You Silly With Exaggerated Threats. Others Can’t…

An ad for an anti-shatter window firm warning of the possibility of a terrorist attack during the Olympics has been banned for causing undue fear and distress, a watchdog said.

Note: not that it was inaccurate, misleading, or untruthful. Not because it wasn’t, in the old tongue, ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

Because it upset people:

Northgate Solar Controls (NSC) warned of the “very real threat” surrounding the Games in the leaflet sent to 4,400 businesses in London and the Home Countiesin February, which also featured an image of the July 7 Tavistock Square bus bombing.It read: “You may have already been visited by the Met Police or other Government Agency to warn you of the current highest level security alert which is being issued ahead of and for the duration of the Olympic Games…Infiltration by suicide bombers etc in conjunction with undetected terrorist sleeper cells already in the country, pose a very real threat.”

It continued: “The message that the Police and the Home Office are giving includes the precaution to consider the strength of your glazing and upgrade it where necessary with the application of a tough Clear Security Film as a deterrent to lethal flying shards of glass in the event of a bomb blast in the vicinity of your building.”

Oh. Correction. It upset one person. One:

One person complained that the ad was offensive and caused undue fear and distress.

Did they make minor errors? Well, yes.

But they were very, very minor indeed.

The Metropolitan Police told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that it did provide protective and counter- terrorism security advice to businesses but this was not specifically linked to the Olympicsand was limited to those within the 32 boroughs of London.The Home Office said it routinely encouraged businesses and other organisations to implement protective security measures, with laminated glass being one such measure.

It also clarified that the “highest level” security alert mentioned in the leaflet was incorrect, and a “substantial” alert was currently in place.

So, not significant in any way. Why ban this ad then?

Upholding the complaint, the ASA said the leaflet’s references to “suicide bombers” and “undetected sleeper cells” combined with many of the recipients working far from any Olympic sites exaggerated the potential threatand could have caused undue fear and distress.It added: “With regards to the image used on the mailing’s envelope, which depicted the bus in Tavistock Square which was a target of the July 7 bombings, we considered that the inclusion of this image was wholly inappropriate and shocking and was likely to cause serious offence and distress.”

Ummm, how?

It’s a picture of the aftermath of a nasty terrorist event. The company is selling equipment designed to alleviate some of the nastiness associated with this sort of terrorist event.

Why can’t they use a picture of a terrorist event to do so?

It ruled that the ad must not be repeated again in its current form.

So, if they use images of another terrorist incident, will that pass? Or must they not ever utter the ‘ Terrorist Incident’ phrase, even though special glass designed to reduce harm from that’s what they sell?

NSC said it did not intend the leaflet to cause fear or alarm but was trying to help minimise the risksin the event of an explosion by the application of bomb-blast film.Prior to compiling the mailing, they had been told by a customer in north London that the Metropolitan Police had visited them and told them they needed to have bomb blast film applied before the Olympics due to the increased risk of terrorism and in view of protecting members of the public from shattered glass.

So, it’s the police who are driving the need for this product (by frightening the bejeesus out of companies), yet the company cannot make any reference to the incident in case it frightens the bejeesus out of someone in one of those companies?

Is it me, or…?

It does seem as though for every sound, sensible decision they make, they make one utterly extraordinary one…