This week was a banner week in the UK for banning radio ads that have helium related themes.
One radio ad was for MasterCard. It featured a man singing over the phone in a high-pitched voice to his girlfriend and followed their "priceless" campaign. There were two complaints.
The other spot was for Travelocity, a part of the "Alan Whicker" Traveling Gnome campaign. In the ad the gnome is enjoying a ride in a helium balloon, and he says "speaking of helium it's the perfect stuff to help me tell you all about Travelocity in a short commercial." There was one complaint.
(Read on for more...)
The three complaints were all about inhaling helium being dangerous. And the ASA ended up upholding the complaints about the two adverts.
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC), who cleared the adverts, said it had approved similar creative treatments over many years and understood the risk to be so small that no harm could result from the scenarios portrayed.
We felt there was sufficient documented evidence to confirm that inhaling helium gas was a potentiallydangerous practice as it replaced the oxygen inthe blood with another gas, which for some people could cause asphyxiation. Although it was unlikely to seriously harm the majority of people we considered the advertisement condoned the the practice of inhaling helium, particularly as describing it as a "party trick" and "the perfect stuff".
They ruled that both advertisements "were in breach of CAP (Broadcast) Radio Advertising Standards Code Section 2, Rule 10 (Harrm) and should not be broadcast again in their current form."
Back in May 2003, the ASA banned a Sun newpaper commercial was banned for the same reasoning back.
And later in the US, just months later, a ToysRUs commercial got a bunch of complaints by parents when Geoffery the Giraffe somehow inhales helium in a hot air balloon. ToysRUs pulled the advert as a response to the compliants.