Babies ads stir most complaints

Barnardo's is unrepentant about its controversial 'silver spoons' ad campaign, despite the fact it attracted the highest number of complaints all year and was banned this week by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Diana Green, director of communications at the charity, said: "We are saddened by the ruling, because we worked closely with the ASA before releasing the advert. We were surprised by the number of complaints, but we wouldn't rule out taking this route again."

The campaign, which involves a series of computer-generated images of babies with foreign objects in their mouths instead of spoons, was banned after it generated 461 complaints to the Authority.

This is the second consecutive year that a charity advert has received the dubious accolade of 'most complained about' advert. In 2002, the British Heart Foundation's advert depicting a woman with a plastic bag over her head generated 315 complaints.

Barnardo's says the figures show that charities are pushing the boundaries of advertising. "Barnardo's didn't run the campaign lightly," said the charity's UK director of marketing and communications, Andrew Nebel. "We took the decision to use provocative images to raise awareness of children living in poverty."

Barnardo's has a reputation for hard-hitting adverts, but this campaign generated far more complaints than previous ones. The charity's 2002 campaign, which showed children with adult faces to increase awareness of child prostitution, raised 20 complaints, while the 'heroin baby' campaign in 2000 attracted 33.

In the same week Barnardo's had its adverts banned, the NSPCC'cartoon' campaign was named the second-most successful advert of the year by an international panel.

The TV campaign, which featured a cartoon child suffering physical abuse alongside the caption "real children don't bounce back", was named best charity advert and second best advert overall in the Gunn Report.

The report looks at the winners at significant awards ceremonies to come up with its own list. The NSPCC, which has already won 26 awards for its cartoon campaign, beat well-known brands, but was pipped to the top spot by a Peugeot 206 advert.

"This report shows that we are using the most effective possible methods to drive home our campaign to end child abuse," said NSPCC's director of communications, John Grounds. "Calls to our child protection helpline doubled during the ad's run, and while we are delighted with the report and our awards, what mattered to us most was its impact in protecting children from intolerable harm."

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