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Hovis 'scary Mary' advert complaints rejected

An ad for Hovis bread has escaped a ban despite complaints that it condoned anti-social behaviour and bullying, a watchdog said today.

The TV campaign for Hovis Hearty Oats bread showed a teenage girl riding a bicycle along a school corridor, hitting a school boy who called her "scary Mary" over the head with a notebook, making a prank phone call, throwing flour in a cookery class, pushing a teacher into a swimming pool and holding a piece of bread above a dog as it jumps up and down to try to reach it.

Four people complained that the ads were irresponsible and condoned anti-social behaviour and bullying, with one suggesting the scene with the dog was cruel and could encourage harmful emulation.

Hovis producer Premier Foods said the aim of the ads was to portray a confident but high-spirited girl's mischievous antics during her childhood in the 1970s in contrast with the sensible choices she made as an adult.

It did not agree the ads as a whole encouraged or condoned bullying, violence or cruelty or could lead to physical harm to children.

Rejecting the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority said: "Although we noted some of the girl's actions were mischievous and naughty, they were not without consequence, and she was reprimanded in several scenes."

It added that the scene with the dog was restricted for broadcast when it was not likely to be seen by children.