ASA bans Oscar mental health ad


Johannesburg - A newspaper advert by an advertising company referring to murder-accused paralympian Oscar Pistorius being sent for psychiatric evaluation must be withdrawn, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled.

The advert, “Oscar's Psychiatric Evaluation” by Toast Media was placed in The Times newspaper on May 27.

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“The process to withdraw the advertisement must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling,” the ASA said in a recent ruling.

“The advertisement may not be used again in its current format and context. The complaint is upheld.”

Pistorius underwent a month-long psychiatric evaluation at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, after which the court heard he did not suffer from general anxiety disorder.

On May 20, the High Court in Pretoria ruled three psychiatrists and one clinical psychologist would evaluate Pistorius to determine whether his general anxiety disorder and his disability had an effect on him when he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

A consumer complained about the advert which contained an image resembling a Rorschach ink-blot. Two handguns on either side as well as what appears to be a heart broken in two can be identified.

Underneath the image”...for alternative creative results” is written with Toast Media's contact details.

A consumer complained that the advert was offensive and presented a twisted mental image of Pistorius and what the psychiatric evaluation would reveal.

The complainant said it was “insensitive and offensive” to Pistorius's family and friends.

Toast Media replied and said the advert was not created to offend or depict vulgar views about the situation or subject.

“The advertising came about as a result of The Times newspaper’s challenge to creative houses, compelling them to look at current affairs in fresh and creative ways,” Toast Media said in its response.

“The Oscar Pistorius trial was of interest to the public, and the respondent deemed it appropriate to not only highlight the situation, but to do so in a creative way.”

The ASA said the “tragedy” surrounding Steenkamp's death at the hands of Pistorius had grabbed international attention and because of his trial so did his referral for psychiatric evaluation.

ASA said it accepted Toast Media's argument that the information in the advert was in the public domain, but it did not negate the fact that the advert was “capitalising on the tragedy for commercial gain”.

“It communicates as a matter of 'fact' that Oscar Pistorius is preoccupied with guns, which led to this tragedy, and in doing so is likely to be perceived as offensive against current public sensitivities.”

“The advertisement must be withdrawn,” ASA said in its ruling.

Final argument in Pistorius's trial will be heard on Thursday.

He claims he shot Steenkamp by accident through the locked door of his toilet in his Pretoria home, thinking she was an intruder.

The State contends he killed her during an argument.


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