It’s amazing what you can get away with in advertising sometimes. Running an ad that compares the prime minister Tony Blair to Adolf Hitler in The Guardian is not a problem for the advertising watchdog despite a number of complaints.
As you can see the ad for NO2ID, an anti-identity card campaign group, shows a close-up of Blair’s face in monochrome, with a barcode placed on his top lip to resemble the German dictator’s moustache.
NO2ID said that the photograph of Tony Blair was retouched to make it look like a 1930s portrait and the layout was designed to recall the Nazi era. The campaign group argued that 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”.
On policy? Well that’s okay then.
NO2ID said 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” and 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”.
In its defence, NO2ID argued that free speech was a vital function of advertising and said the ad was intended to be insulting to Tony Blair.
In its defence, The Guardian said the ad did not make a serious comparison between Tony Blair and Hitler, but sought to highlight a particularly contentious policy. It said the newspaper was aimed at an adult and educated readership and, as such, it should allow a certain degree of latitude in the advertising it carried that depicted political figures.
The Advertising Standards Authority rejected the complaints after concluding the ad may be have been distasteful to some but was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ASA said: “We considered that, although the ad may have been distasteful 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. We concluded that, as such, the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”