REVIEW OF THE YEAR: Challenging attitudes: a year of controversy for charity adverts

Annie Kelly

The Advertising Standards Authority ban on Barnardo's controversial 'silver spoons' ads is a sour note to end an otherwise impressive year for charity advertising campaigns.

The campaign, depicting a cockroach, a syringe and a meths bottle in babies' mouths, was banned after it became the most complained about ad of 2003, with 461 complaints to the ASA.

But Barnardo's has remained bullish about the campaign, declaring it wouldn't rule out taking a similar course in future.

WWF-UK relaunched its toxic chemicals campaign using a softer image of a child listening to its pregnant mother's stomach after the authority banned its original advert showing a foetus in the womb last December.

But Giles Robertson, head of marketing and communications at WWF-UK, said that in hindsight the charity should have fought its corner and pledged to keep on producing ads that included strong images to communicate the urgency of its work.

One hard-hitting campaign that received countless accolades is the NSPCC's 'cartoon' TV campaign, featuring a cartoon child suffering physical abuse alongside the caption "Real Children Don't Bounce Back".

"Child abuse is one of the hardest issues to communicate," said John Grounds, NSPCC's director of communications. "We can't afford for people to look away in horror and ignore our message."

Another tough issue was dealt with by Changing Faces, which launched a series of poster ads showing people with facial disfigurements above straplines such as "How Do you Survive Bumping into me? How about saying hello?"

James Partridge, chief executive at Changing Faces, said that the posters did more than raise awareness of the charity's work - they also gave people a strategy for dealing with disfigurement.

Other charity campaigns were controversial for different reasons. The Prostate Cancer Charity's "Are you more spunky than a monkey?" postcard campaign asked people to log on to a website and guess the amount of semen produced by a pig, cow, elephant, man and monkey.

And the Countryside Alliance launched a poster campaign that showed two different images of a woman dressed as a hunter and a nurse, with the heading "Now they hate her. Now they don't."

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