An advert showing a close-up picture of Tony Blair with a barcode on his top lip was not offensive, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.
The advert appeared in The Guardian newspaper with the strapline: "ID cards have worked well in Europe before." Eight people complained that they thought the barcode made Blair resemble Hitler. The poster is available here.
The ASA said although the ad may be offensive to some "it was unlikely to be seen as making a serious comparison between Tony Blair and Hitler but instead as highlighting a lobbying group's opinion that ID cards should not be introduced because of the threat to civil liberty they posed".
NO2ID made clear they had worked hard to make Blair look like Hitler. The ASA statement said:
NO2ID said the photograph of Tony Blair was expertly retouched to make it look like a 1930s portrait and the layout was designed to recall the Nazi era.
They said the photograph did not portray Tony Blair as Hitler but was intended to be a comparison of Tony Blair with Hitler based on policy, not personality.
NO2ID asserted that the ad contained an implicit claim that identity cards were useful to the implementation of Nazi policies across Europe; they argued that that was beyond doubt. They asserted that identity cards themselves had been used to control populations in occupied Europe and were very closely associated with the process of sorting victims for the concentration camps.
They said the ad was intended to be insulting to Tony Blair but argued that insulting a politician was unlikely to offend.
The complaint was not upheld because: "The ASA noted the ad had been intended to encourage discussion on a sensitive political issue."
The whole ASA judgement, well worth a read, is available here. ®
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