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Martini beauty parade ruled `hurtful'

Watchdog tells drinks maker to replace `divisive' advertisements after objections over potential harm to disfigured children

Media Correspondent

The drinks maker Martini was told today that its advertisements featuring ugly people who had supposedly had to have cosmetic surgery to make them beautiful enough to drink the alcohol were offensive to disfigured children.

The ruling from the Independent Television Commission followed 70 complaints from viewers, including a plastic surgeon, who argued that the two advertisements on the theme of "beautiful people" were offensive.

The first showed a young man embarrassed to drink Martini because he felt he was too ugly. But after undergoing cosmetic surgery, he could confidently order the drink.

The second featured a quiz show, Get a New Face, in which the winners were given cosmetic surgery "so they look good enough to drink the beautiful drink".

Both commercials ended with the slogan: "With Martini, we can make Britain a more beautiful place."

But the complainants - who also included a neurophysiologist and two charities - objected to the emphasis on corrective surgery as hurtful to people with facial disfigurements.

Some expressed particular concern about the effect on facially disfigured children, and a number said that it was divisive to imply that only beautiful people could drink Martini.

The advertising agency involved, Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, said that the advert was intended to satirise vanity and to ridicule people who strived for physical perfection by the use of surgery.

No one in the commercials was disfigured and the quiz show contestants were of normal people of average appearance.

In its ruling the ITC said that, while recognising many viewers might dislike the advert, it would be "excessive" to conclude that the humour went beyond acceptable standards.

However, the heavy emphasis on cosmetic surgery was upsetting some sections of the audience. It was particularly concerned about "possible impact on facially disfigured children who would not necessarily have the maturity to interpret the material in the relatively sophisticated way intended".

It has forbidden Martini to run the adverts before the 9pm watershed and has "urged" the drinks maker to replace the campaign as soon as possible with more sensitive material.

In the same set of rulings the ITC also instructed Teletext to stop advertising premium-rate telephone lines which offered advice on choosing winning lottery numbers.

The telephone services either suggested "lucky" or "unlucky" numbers or claimed a mathematical basis for increasing the chances of a win.

The ITC ruled that no number was statistically more likely to come up than another. It did not accept Teletext's argument that putting the suggestions in an astrological context made them acceptable.