Adverts posted on social media over Mother’s Day for a burger company showing a child depicted as Madeleine McCann being carried away by a running man have been rapped by a watchdog for likely ‘causing unjustified distress and serious and widespread offense’.
A tweet posted on March 27 this year stated ‘burgers for dinner?’ Below was an image of missing Madeleine and her mother, Kate, alongside text which stated ‘with burgers this good, you’ll leave your kids at home. What’s the worst that could happen? ‘
In the background, a man was shown running with a smaller image of Madeleine in his hands, said watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Text at the bottom of the post stated ‘Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there’.
In a ruling after complaints, the ASA said it considered the nature of the content to be of such a concern that it asked the relevant social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – to remove the content and suspend the account pending its investigation. The watchdog said it acted after three complaints were received.
The social media posts were by the Otley Burger Company, a mobile burger van based in Otley, West Yorkshire. The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media.
In response, the Otley Burger Company said that they would not use photos of Kate McCann in that manner again or superimpose images of Madeleine McCann, said the ASA. In a ruling, the watchdog said: “They said that all ads had been removed and would not appear again. They also said the image was a meme and there was no product placement, so it was not advertising.
“Meta said they had reviewed the content in the Instagram post and had removed it for violating their policies. They also undertook a broader review of the Instagram account, removed further content and placed restrictions on the account. Twitter said the tweet had been deleted. “
The ASA noted that ads must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offense, and advertisers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. They said: “The disappearance of Madeleine McCann had been a high-profile and long-running media story which remained widely known. We considered the images of them would be instantly recognizable to many people.
“We further considered that any reference to a missing child was likely to be distressing, and that in the context of an ad promoting a burger company the distress caused was unjustified.”
The watchdog added that the text and the image of a man running away with a superimposed photo of Madeleine ‘further trivialized the circumstances surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance and made light of a distressing news story concerning reports of child abduction and serious crime’.
The Mother’s Day timing of the ad ‘was likely to have compounded the distress of those who saw the ads, and particularly for those who may have experienced the disappearance of a child’. The ASA said: “For those reasons, we concluded that the ads were likely to cause unjustified distress and serious and widespread offense.”
It ruled that the ads must not appear again, adding: “We told The Otley Burger Company to ensure they avoided causing serious and widespread offense and distress.”
Madeleine was three when she disappeared during a family holiday in Portugal in May 2007.
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