ASA bans St John Ambulance advert after Full Fact complaint

18 December 2013

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a high profile television advert from St John Ambulance is misleading and unsubstantiated, following Full Fact's complaint last year.

The claim that 140,000 deaths per year could be prevented through first aid appeared in St John Ambulance's advert in December 2012. The ASA has said that the claim can't be repeated in its current form.

Since our first enquiry St John Ambulance has consistently refused to make public how they came up with this figure.

Our original complaint was not upheld but we asked for a review because the ASA recognised in its initial judgement that there was no proper research to underpin the claim.

Today the ASA ruled that St John Ambulance was not able to substantiate the claims it had made, and that the advert breaches the ASA's code rules on misleading advertising, following the intervention of its Independent Reviewer.

The overturned judgement comes after a statement from the ASA that it will put more checks and balances in place when assessing complaints about charity and public service adverts.

The advert featured a man recovering from cancer, then choking to death at a barbecue. The text on screen said: "First aid could help prevent up to 140,000 deaths every year. The same number of people that die from cancer."

We're pleased that our research has been backed by the ASA, but sorry that St John Ambulance still refuses to publish the research behind the claims it's made.

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