Regulator bans Guide Dogs advert for being 'of interest' to children

The charity says its Christmas radio advert about sponsorship, banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, was aimed at adults, but it would replace it this year

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and told the charity to take care that its future fundraising messages are not addressed to children.

An ASA adjudication, published today, considers a complaint about a radio advert broadcast in November, which featured a girl visiting Father Christmas in his grotto.

When the girl says she would like a puppy for Christmas but her mother has told her they do not have the time to look after one, Father Christmas says: "How about a special guide dog puppy like Snowy? Your mummy can sponsor one like her for just £1 a week.

"You'll get photos, ‘pupdates’ and a cuddly toy, then one day, when Snowy's all grown up, she'll change a blind or partially sighted person's life forever!"

One listener complained that the advert breached the advertising code because it was likely to be of particular interest to children and would encourage them to ask their parents to make purchases on their behalf.

Advertising guidelines say that adverts must "neither directly exhort children to buy a product or service nor encourage them to ask their parents, guardians or other persons to buy or enquire about a product or service for them".

They also say adverts seeking donations for charities must not "address fundraising messages to children or be likely to be of particular interest to them".

The charity told the ASA that it did not accept puppy sponsorships from people aged under 18.

It said its appeals were designed to target adults only and did not consider that an advert featuring Father Christmas and a young child would encourage children to ask their parents to consider sponsoring a puppy.

The ASA concluded that the advert did not breach rules exhorting children to buy a product or service, but it did break the rules that say charities must not address fundraising messages to children or run adverts that are likely to be of particular interest to them.

It should therefore not be broadcast again, the ASA said.

A Guide Dogs spokeswoman said it had no plans to run the advert again.

"We were concerned to hear that a listener was upset by our re-run of a Christmas radio advertisement campaign for our Sponsor a Puppy scheme," she said.

"The advert had received clearance from the relevant broadcasting authorities and received a positive response since it was first broadcast in 2011."

She said the listener’s concerns had been taken on board and the charity would be replacing the advert this Christmas.

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