Commissioned by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the short radio ad was, admittedly, a masterpiece of it's-always-the-quiet-ones nonsense. What about the man at the end of the street who doesn't talk much 'because he likes to keep himself to himself', a calm but firm voice intones. You know, the one 'who pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card'. Yes, him, the one who 'keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route'. Taken together, listeners were told, these behaviours might be indicative of terrorist activity. 'We all have a role to play in combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 XXXXXX. If you suspect it, report it.'
Right on cue, 10 people suspected the advert, and then reported it to the ASA on the grounds that it was offensive to those who might actually behave like the person depicted in the advert but are not considering blowing up Tiger Tiger night club. And to be fair, there are probably quite a few. Justifying its decision to uphold the complaints of the painfully shy, the photosensitive and the cash-carrying, the ASA stated: 'We considered that the ad could also describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community and we considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive.' Eager to ensure that impulsive sneaks did not feel left out, the ASA also took into account the feelings of those who might 'be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described'.