ITC bans Healey joke in advert

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A TELEVISION commercial making fun of Norman Lamont's embarrassment over alleged credit- card bills was banned yesterday by television watchdogs.

Mr Lamont, the former chancellor, secured an Independent Television Commission ruling that the peak-time Visa Delta commercial starring a predecessor Denis (now Lord) Healey broke guidelines by featuring a Thresher's shop in the closing sequence.

Mr Lamont said yesterday: 'The Thresher story was a fabrication of newspapers based on a lie. I do not see why an advertisement should perpetuate a lie.' He said that the nature of the advertisement was drawn to his attention by letters of complaint from 'members of the public'.

Mr Lamont did not seek cancellation of the campaign, devised by Saatch & Saatchi, after getting agreement that it would not run again.

The advertisement showed Lord Healey raising his famous eyebrows outside Thresher's and saying that the new debit card was so simple even chancellors of the exchequer could understand it.

Visa said yesterday that it had not been asked by the ITC to change or withdraw the advertisement but added that it had no plans to re-run it.

Lord Healey has once again been forced to survey the world from the top of the discard pile, his career in advertising - two campaigns - cut short. Last May he was dragged grinning and hand- rubbing from commercial obscurity to describe for Sainsbury's how to serve smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, topped off with a glass of champagne. It was a debut that had the advertising industry begging for more. But his return, the performance for Visa, hurt feelings.

There is hope, however. Jeremy Miles, a board account director with Abbott Mead Vickers, the agency responsible for Lord Healey's Sainsbury's success, was reassuring. Lord Healey was prime advertising material - warm, cuddly, big eyebrows. 'From our point of view, he is an extremely well-loved, happy British character. The fact that he was an ex-Labour chancellor isn't really relevant.'