ChildLine direct mail breached guidelines

ChildLine has been found guilty of breaching advertising guidelines and causing "undue fear or distress" with a direct mail that was not clearly marked as marketing material.

The pack contained a mock counsellor’s log sheet that included handwritten details of three calls to ChildLine, details of the time and duration of each call and the age of the caller. The front of the envelope stated, in handwritten text: “We called but there was no answer.”

ChildLine, which is part of the NSPCC, received 143 complaints about the material; the Advertising Standards Authority received three.

The NSPCC claimed the ad made clear that it was a request for money and said that part of its remit was to ensure the public knew abuse existed. The ASA accepted the NSPCC aimed to raise awareness of child abuse and that the subject was likely to cause discomfort.

“We considered, however, that although it included a registered charity number in small print on the rear, the envelope did not make clear that it contained marketing material from the NSPCC,” the ASA ruled. “We considered that some recipients could believe the log sheet was genuine and, because it could be the first thing they would see and because the envelope did not make clear who it was from, the mailing could mislead and cause undue fear or distress to some recipients.”

The ASA has instructed the NSPCC to ensure that it makes it clear on the envelope that it contained marketing material and to make clear on the counsellor log sheet that the calls were not genuine.

The Committee of Advertising Practice is holding a workshop for charities on 19 September to explain the do’s and don’ts of non-broadcast advertising. Those who wish to register should email their details to or call Zoe Kalu or Emma Cutting on: 020 7492 2200.

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