Penguin Books attacked over 'gun' posters

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The Independent Online

Penguin Books has been censured for a poster campaign featuring pistol-wielding teenagers after a senior police officer complained that the advertisement encouraged a gun culture among children.

Penguin Books has been censured for a poster campaign featuring pistol-wielding teenagers after a senior police officer complained that the advertisement encouraged a gun culture among children.

The poster provoked a protest by Commander Mike Fuller, the head of Operation Trident, the squad set up to investigate black-on-black shootings in London.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaint yesterday, arguing that the poster, which was displayed nationally, could cause offence and breached the industry code of conduct.

The campaign, which included posters and adverts in newspapers and magazines and aimed to promote Penguin Books, featured two American teenagers dressed in baggy "street" clothing. One has an automatic pistol he is casually slipping inside his jacket, while the other looks on. The photograph is accompanied by the slogan "Be Here".

Mr Fuller was particularly scathing of the billboard display of the poster in Hackney, north-east London, the scene of several gun-related murders. He said: "[The poster] is distasteful and offensive to not only the victims and their relatives but also the communities who are already fearful of the callous gunmen who carry out these shootings."

Penguin Books and the advertising agency, Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy, said the complainants had made an "unfortunate and erroneous interpretation of the poster".

However, the standards authority ruled that the "message of the poster was ambiguous". It told the advertisers not to use the poster again and to contact its advice team before placing other posters.

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