Barnardo's tops list of most complained about adverts

But ASA ruled screen violence was 'justified', despite 840 complaints

A controversial campaign by children's charity Barnardo's was the advert that attracted most complaints in 2008, according to the Advertising Standards Authority's annual report.

The advert, called Break the Cycle, showed repeated footage of a man hitting his daughter as well as scenes of violence and drug-taking. It engendered 840 complaints, nearly three times as many as the third-placed advert.

However, the complaints against the advert were not upheld by the ASA, which said "the adverts were scheduled appropriately and their aim justified the use of strong imagery".

Diana Tickell, UK communications director at Barnardo's, said the charity consulted Clearcast, which scrutinises TV adverts before they are broadcast, and made sure it followed the Advertising Standards Authority code of conduct.

"For the vast majority of viewers, this message was loud and clear and we saw an increase of almost 50 per cent in people wanting to donate to Barnardo's," she said.

A spokesman for the ASA said: "This was a particularly difficult case. We had to weigh up the importance of the ad's message and the charity's right to freedom of expression against the very real distress that the advert caused.

"There's a fine line between provoking a reaction and going too far, but we felt that this advert was on the right side of the line."

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