Thomas Cook ad banned for encouraging children to behave badly

A controversial Thomas Cook TV ad featuring a man letting down a holiday coach tyre has been banned after the ASA was deluged with more than 100 complaints.

The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) banned the ad after it ruled that children could mimic the act.

The TV ad showed a group of holidaymakers queuing to board a Thomas Cook coach. A man walked to the rear of the coach and crouched down beside the wheel, pulling the valve out of the tyre with a pair of pliers.

He is seen by a child and several adults, one of whom calls, "Hey! What do you think you’re doing!". The man smiles as he walks away from the coach, which now has a flat tyre, while the voice-over  says, "Holidays you won’t want to return from."

The ASA received 118 complaints about the ad: 72 challenged whether it was irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicing health and safety; 69 questioned whether the ad was irresponsible, as it condoned or encouraged crime or anti-social behaviour; 23 asked if the ad was irresponsible and likely to be copied by children; and 3 challenged whether the ad was offensive, as it showed actions which might lead to a traffic accident.

The ad was cleared by the TV vetting body Clearcast on the grounds that it should not be shown around programmes made for or targeted to children.

In its defence, Thomas Cook said it had analysed the feedback and found that, for every negative remark, many more people has made positive comments.

Thomas Cook said the actions of the man letting down the coach tyre was not condoned in the ad and considered that the work's tongue-in-cheek nature meant it clearly did not condone crime or anti-social behaviour.

The holiday provider made the point that it was highly unlikely that children would have unsupervised access to pliers and that it would take considerable strength to copy the act.

The watchdog cleared Thomas Cook on three of four of the issues but ruled there was a danger of children copying the act.

The ASA banned the ad stating:  "We considered that older children, particularly teenagers, would be more readily able to emulate the behaviour shown, because they were more likely to have seen the ad and to be able to gain access to that type of tool."

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