An advert for a Father’s Day promotion that featured a picture of serial killer Fred West has been banned for being likely to cause serious or widespread offence and distress.
The June email for a live dissection event called The Vivit Experience, held by ITAE Productions, was titled She’s Under The Patio and included a picture of West.
Text stated: “This week we take a look at the Father’s (sic) famous for all the wrong reasons… Fred West became known in the 1990s when it was revealed him and his wife, Rosemary, were involved in 12 murders of young women in Gloucester.”
It went on: “One of their victims was their own daughter… of which (sic) when she was missing they would often joke of her being ‘buried under the patio’. Take 10% off this Fathers Day.”
Under this, a button stated: “Read the Fred West blog here.” The ad also featured an image of a body cut open through the stomach with its organs visible.
Three readers complained that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
ITAE Productions said they did not believe the ad was offensive, adding that West was “notorious for murder, but that he was also a father, and that this was relevant to his crimes”.
They said they considered it to be socially acceptable to share history that was relevant to occasions when there was a factual or direct link between the two, which in this case they believed to be Fred West’s crimes and Father’s Day.
ITAE also said “she’s under the patio” was a quote by West as a “family joke” and that consumers would be familiar with this.
Upholding the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that advertisers “must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention”.
The ASA said: “We considered that conflating Fred West with the celebration of Father’s Day was intended to create shock value and contributed to the ad’s offensive nature.
“We understood that the subject line of the ad, ‘she’s under the patio,’ referred to the murder of Heather West and the subsequent concealment of her body.
“We considered that using the murder of a young woman, in order to shock readers into clicking on the ad, was gratuitous and likely to cause serious offence.”
The ASA ruled: “We considered that the treatment of Ms West in the ad was dehumanising, especially within the context of an ad which used her murder as a tool to promote a discount code.
“Furthermore, we considered the tone of the ad was flippant, and that this approach trivialised the circumstances surrounding the murder of the victims, as well as making light of distressing and serious crimes. Consequently, we considered that the ad did not treat Fred West’s victims with respect or sensitivity.
“For those reasons, we concluded the ad was likely to cause unjustified distress and serious and widespread offence.”