Media: Insurance ads forced off air by complaints

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The Independent Online
The Independent Television Commission has suspended the transmission of an advertisement by Direct Line after complaints from rival insurance companies.

Broadcasters have been told not to show the advertisement while the ITC investigates complaints that it was misleading. Direct Line says its campaign has now ended anyway.

The ITC said it received seven complaints accusing the telephone insurer Direct Line of showing traditional insurance brokers in a damaging way.

Among the companies who complained was Norwich Union, which accused Direct Line of being "intentionally and damagingly misleading in its portrayal of brokers".

John Kitson, marketing manager for Norwich Union, said: "We are delighted with the ITC suspension and it is a real victory for the insurance broker and Norwich Union. We believe Direct Line has intentionally tried to portray brokers from the past rather than the present.

"Not only did we consider it misleading to the public, but also very damaging to the business of thousands of highly efficient and modern insurance brokers."

An ITC spokeswoman said: "We are investigating the complaints at the moment and have requested that broadcasters suspend the advertisement while we look into them."

The advertisement features a Direct Line operator answering questions posed by a potential customer and has scenes including a high street broker's shop and a car accident.

A spokeswoman for Direct Line said: "We are disappointed to see Norwich Union making these claims. "But the fact that the ITC has suspended the advert does not mean that any of the complaints by Norwich Union or others have been upheld."

Earlier this year, Direct Line ran another controversial campaign where it asked rival companies to appear in its commercial if they could match a series of its product promises.

When a number of rival insurance companies came forward, Direct Line was effectively forced to give them hundreds of thousands of pounds of free airtime.

- Paul McCann