In a rare move, the ASA overturned at the end of last year its previous decision to reject a complaint about the accuracy of data used in a St John Ambulance ad, and has banned the ad in its current form, after an independent review. The ad (watch it here) was the 10th most complained about of 2012 after the ASA received 144 complaints in that year. In July 2013, the ASA rejected a complaint by the fact-checking organisation Full Fact about the accuracy of the data cited in the ad, which claimed that “First aid could help prevent up to 140,000 deaths every year. The same number of people that die from cancer”. Full Fact appealed the decision and the ASA has now overturned its original ruling after further investigation and deemed the claim to be misleading.
St John Ambulance is considering whether it can take legal action over the ruling after Steve Conway, Director of Brand Marketing, Communications and Fundraising at the charity responded, “the ad was approved by Clearcast, who we worked with from the outset to ensure we were transparent and that it complied with the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice Code… Despite the ASA ruling that we can’t use the claim in advertising, we still stand by our analysis that first aid could help prevent up to 140,000 deaths every year.” Nevertheless, with the ASA putting more checks and balances in place when assessing complaints about charity and public service adverts, we would advise advertisers to be ever more vigilant in ensuring all claims made in their advertising are capable of substantiation with concrete evidence, particularly where, in the case of such charity ads, there is such an important message to be conveyed.