Newstalk reprimanded by ASAI for “vulgar” poster

An outdoor poster campaign by Newstalk was shot down by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland after complaints about “vulgar” language.

The billboard, which was placed in Cork city, featured the station’s breakfast show hosts Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue, with a message reading: “Take the bullshitters by the horns”. 

In a list of decisions published this Tuesday, the ASAI said that several complainants were annoyed that the ad’s language was “coarse, vulgar and offensive”, adding that:

“Some complainants also considered such language inappropriate for use in outdoor posters in public areas where children may see them. One complainant considered that the use of this type of language may create a bad impression to those holidaying in Ireland.”

Defending the campaign, Newstalk said it considered itself to be “the independent voice of Ireland”, adding that they had a track record for premium and engaging marketing campaigns that helped build their reputation and listenership.

Explaining the station’s feelings on the ad, the ASAI said:

The advertisers said that the campaign in question was developed to communicate the station’s ‘Don’t Hold Back’ proposition. They believed in saying what their listeners believed without changing their views.

They said this campaign had demonstrated that they were willing to stand up for what they believed in and spoke out on subjects that mattered [and] the message contained within their advertisement had reaffirmed the philosophy of their radio station and they had not intentionally set out to cause offence.

However, the Authority upheld the complaints and told Newstalk that its marketing campaigns “should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society”.

They also advised that advertisers should bear in mind the extent to which a word’s impact in an advertisement can be influenced by the media used, elaborating by saying that – while the word may be acceptable in a more targeted advertisement – it wasn’t the case in outdoor advertising, which is visible to all.

The complaints were upheld under Sections 2.2 and 2.15 of the Advertising Standards Code of Practise, with the Authority ruling that the advert “must not be used in its current form again”, and specifically requesting that Newstalk “take the concerns expressed by the complainants on board when creating future marketing communications.”

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