Lumley finds bus ad absolutely outrageous

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An advertisment depicting a Joanna Lumley lookalike endorsing a soft drink has been denounced as monstrous by the actress's agents and raised the question of how celebrities can protect their image.

The ad, for Tizer, is one of three featuring celebrity lookalikes and is being used on the sides of 15,000 buses in 13 cities including London, Glasgow and Manchester. A pedestrian glimpsing the ad on the side of a bus roaring past would think that it shows Joanna Lumley as Patsy, the character she plays in the BBC TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous, with the slogan "Absolutely Refreshing, Sweetie".

A more considered glance would reveal that it is not Lumley but Sue Bradley from Wiltshire, coiffed and made-up to look like Joanna-cum-Patsy. Other apparent celebrities featured in the campaign are the tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Liam Gallagher of Oasis.

Miss Lumley's agency, Conway van Gelder, has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority after branding the campaign "monstrous and discourteous". It has also called for the drinks company to make a donation to charity.

The agency's intervention has also raised the question of how celebrities can protect themselves against such "passing off". One option would be to trademark themselves, in a move similar to the one made by the racing driver Damon Hill, who trademarked the image of his eyes looking out from his balaclava and helmet-clad head. Jacques Villeneuve, his successor as world champion, has followed suit and trademarked his face.

In the United States, celebrities are protected by law against their image being used, because the courts ruled that their personalities had a value. This is not so in the UK.

Chris Reed, the Advertising Standards Association spokesman, said it had received a complaint about the advertisement and was investigating.