Page last updated at 04:57 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

'Sex' ad gives rise to complaints

The AMI's poster
The posters sited in London prompted hundreds of complaints

Hundreds of complaints over billboard adverts featuring the word "sex" in giant lettering have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The 522 complaints were against an advert by the Advanced Medical Institute (AMI), which offers treatment to men with sexual problems.

The billboard posters used the slogan "Want longer lasting sex?", with "sex" written in giant red letters.

The ASA said complainants felt the message was "impossible to avoid".

The posters were sited across London and generated complaints that they were offensive and unsuitable for public locations.

The ASA said they had caused embarrassment to parents whose children had questioned them after seeing the billboards.

AMI, which has its UK base in Twickenham, west London, provides consultations and treatments for men suffering impotence and premature ejaculation.

Their advertising campaign offered "nasal delivery technology" to men who registered for treatment.

Our ads have been very successful in reaching men with these issues, many of whom are suffering in silence
Dr Michael Spira
AMI Europe's chief medical officer
An ASA spokeswoman said: "A number of complainants pointed out to us that the sheer size of the message made it impossible to avoid, which they found very uncomfortable.

"The ASA removed the advert pending investigation so we cannot tell how many more complaints we would have received had we allowed the advert to continue running.

"However, the nature of the advert shown on large billboards around London, led to over 500 complaints from people who felt the ads were crass and offensive."

The authority also ruled that AMI committed a second breach by indirectly advertising a prescription-only medicine.

AMI has said it will appeal against the decision.

AMI Europe's chief medical officer, Dr Michael Spira, said: "It is clear we were not out to offend anyone - and we know from representative surveys that the majority of Britons are not offended by our ads.

"Our ads have been very successful in reaching men with these issues, many of whom are suffering in silence, too embarrassed to seek help at their GP, to let them know that AMI can help them.

"We will appeal the decision as we believe all the evidence, including independent research, says the ASA has got this wrong."

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