Marmite's ad spoofs animal rescue documentaries

Advertising watchdog the ASA has said it will not be investigating a Marmite TV ad that sparked more than 500 complaints.

An ad that spoofed animal rescue documentaries attracted 504 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, with many claiming it was in poor taste and offensive, and others suggesting it trivialised the work of animal and child protection agencies. Some also felt the ad was unsuitable for children and might cause distress to people who had been victims of abuse.

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But the ASA said today it would not be launching an investigation. Earlier this month the authority told The Grocer that, in addition to complaints, it had also received “a steady stream” of messages of support for the ad.

“While some viewers might find the theme and style of the ads distasteful most would recognise the ads were a spoof,” said an ASA spokesman today. “They were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or to be irresponsible and were unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to young viewers.” The ASA described the ads as light-hearted in tone, and said they did not “trivialise issues of abuse or denigrate the work of child and animal protection services”.

Two weeks ago Marmite owner Unilever donated £18,000 to the RSPCA – the amount it costs to run the society’s inspectorate service for one day – and issued a statement saying it was never its intention to cause offence with the ad, which was the first time Marmite had been on TV for two years.

“We have made every effort to ensure this commercial entertains anyone who watches it,” said a spokesman. “It ranked highly throughout our rigorous testing process and with clear branding from the outset, as well as the comedic tone, we believe we have created an unmistakably Marmite ad – people will either love it or hate it and they certainly won’t forget it.

“We hope that everyone will watch and enjoy this commercial in the light-hearted way it was intended.”