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The controversial billboard. Aoife Danagher

Complaint over 'Limerick crime scene' Irish Examiner ad not upheld

The ASAI found that the ad did not cause grave or widespread offence.

A COMPLAINT THAT an Irish Examiner ad featuring a photograph of part of Limerick with police tape across it was “offensive” has not been upheld.

The ad had been on display in June near Colbert Station for just a few hours before it was torn down.

At the time, Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan denied that the city was being targeted by the paper, saying that the ad had been misinterpreted as focusing solely on Limerick, when the newspaper was actually publishing a national investigation series.

The complaint

The complaint to the Advertising Standards of Ireland (ASAI) was in relation to the advertisement that featured a photograph of King John’s Castle in Limerick with images of yellow police tape stating “crime scene do not cross” across the billboard.

The headline stated; “Just how safe is Limerick”, while text under the crime scene tape stated “A county by county crime supplement. Irish Examiner. Thursday June 13 #IECrime.”

The complainants considered that the advertisement was offensive and misleading.

They said it implied that there were high levels of crime in Limerick which they said was not supported by data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

They also believed it was perpetuating a stereotype of Limerick and its citizens which was inaccurate and misleading.

The Limerick Communications Office complained that the advertisement was “irresponsible, ill-conceived and offensive, portraying misleading negative publicity and creating fear in the minds of visitors due to its location at the main bus/train station”.

The ASAI said the complainants said they “felt it reinforced unfair and untrue negative perceptions by depicting an image of one of the city’s main tourist attractions covered with crime scene tape as if a major crime had been committed which was not true”.

The response

The Irish Examiner said that they regularly run ‘special investigation’ features.

They said they pre-promote each special investigation to draw the public’s attention to them, and they were surprised by the reaction from Limerick to the ad.

They said they had decided to feature several locations in Munster:

because the Special Investigation covered the detailed crime statistics for each county and city. They had therefore produced regionalised versions of the advertisements for Clare, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Waterford, as well as Limerick. They pointed out that it was clear from the advertisement that there they would be publishing a crime supplement on a county by county basis.

They had posted all six versions of the poster in the newspaper, on social media sites and online discussion fora “to demonstrate that the campaign was not focused solely on Limerick”.

They considered that to have excluded Limerick from the regionalisation of the campaign and to have treated Limerick differently to all other Munster Counties would have been wrong.

The advertisers also said it was never their intention to cause any offence to Limerick or any other residents, and that the Irish Examiner “had always stood out by seeking to portray a much more positive view of Limerick than that portrayed by other media”.

Because of concern, they ceased the posting of the campaign mid-cycle, and had the existing posters covered up.

Not upheld

The ASAI’s complaints committee noted that the Irish Examiner had not posted all the posters initially planned for, and had covered those already posted.

It also noted that number of complainants had referred to the fact that crime statistics for Limerick were falling.

They did not, however, consider that the advertisement suggested that they were particularly high as compared with other cities and did not consider that the advertising was misleading.

On the question of offence, the committee noted that a number of the posters in the overall campaign portrayed iconic locations including the Rock of Cashel, “but that these had not generated complaints to the ASAI from the other counties involved”.

They concluded that while they understood the concerns expressed by the complainants from Limerick:

they did not consider that the content of the posters could cause grave or widespread offence within the meaning of Section 2.15 of the Code.

Read: Irish Examiner editor defends Limerick crime billboard>

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