Motor Neurone Disease Association advert cleared after complaints

ASA rejects claims that campaign was 'offensive and distressing'

Motor Neurone Disease Association Sarah's Story
Motor Neurone Disease Association Sarah's Story

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints that a cinema advert by the Motor Neurone Disease Association was "offensive and distressing".

The advert, called Sarah's Story, shows a woman entering a room and being flung against a column before collapsing to the floor.

She is then pulled towards a wheelchair while her body contorts. Her clothes are pulled off and she is dragged across the floor. A voiceover says: "Now you know how it feels to get motor neurone disease. Help us fight back."

Five complainants said the advert was distressing and offensive, and that it was inappropriate that it had been given clearance to be shown before films rated 15.

However, the association argued that the advert was created to help people understand the effects of the disease and the loss of dignity it entailed.

In its defence, the charity produced statements from a consultant anaesthetist living with the disease and from Sarah Ezekiel, the woman whose body is featured in the film. Both said the advert was an accurate depiction of the reality of MND.

The Cinema Advertising Association, which gave the film the 15 rating, said the advert was "justified given the nature of its message and the rating applied".

The ASA acknowledged that some viewers might find the advert distressing, but concluded that it was justified because it raised awareness of the physical and emotional effects of the disease.

Donna Cresswell, director of communications at the MND Association, said: "We set out to raise awareness of just how devastating the disease is. We didn't set out to shock, but telling the truth about motor neurone disease is shocking because the facts are shocking. I am delighted the ASA understood our honest approach."


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