An advertising campaign that bombarded Britain with posters appealing for help to find a lost dog called Lucky has been condemned by industry regulators for exploiting public concern over animal welfare.
The Advertising Standards Authority has censured the Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group advertisements for causing distress to people who thought they were genuine.
Adopting the style of a dog owner's attempt to find a lost pet with a poster asking "Where's Lucky?", the campaign prompted a flurry of interest in the fate of the missing Airedale-collie cross. After several weeks of teasing the nation, the posters were revealed as a ploy to promote a financial product.
In its defence, the insurance company argued that it was obvious to consumers that the appeal was not genuine and that research carried out before the campaign launch had shown that the public was fully able to understand that it was a spoof.
The posters included a telephone number and a website address, which provided information on Battersea Dogs' Home in London, which had been consulted in advance, and advised callers to contact local authorities if they found a stray.
But the ASA ruling, published today, asks Royal and Sun Alliance to avoid repeating the advertisements.
The authority acknowledged people would understand the advertisement once they had dialled the telephone number or accessed the website, but considered distress could have been caused none the less.
There were 15 complaints from members of the public who thought the campaign could undermine genuine attempts to find lost pets.Reuse content