A legal aid app was allowed to offend an advertisement in which the voiceover used the word “crook”.
The Advertising Standards Authority investigated Legal Utopia after a complainant said the word was a derogatory term used to describe Jewish people and disputed whether it was offensive.
Last October’s TV commercial opened with a voiceover that said, “I discovered Legal Utopia; the app to help you save time and potentially save money.’ He went on to give examples of where the app could be used, including ‘poor quality claims against scammers’, along with a photo of a woman speaking angrily on the phone as she reviewed leaky pipes under a sink.
The ASA said there was a range of opinions on the etymology of the word “crook” and sought advice from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who had no concerns about its use.
His ruling added: “We considered that in the context used in the ad, most viewers would understand the term ‘scam artist’ to refer to an unscrupulous plumber who had done substandard work and failed to do so. not corrected.”
“We recognized that some viewers may find the term distasteful, but concluded that, in the context of the ad, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offense.”
Legal Utopia said it based its interpretation of the word on the definition of a “dishonest or unscrupulous person” in the Oxford English Dictionary and argued that most interpretations of the origin of the word had no anti-Semitic basis. Linking the word to Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice and its Jewish character Shylock was “exceedingly distant and unsupported”, it was submitted.
The announcement had been referred to Clearcast, which manages the licensing system for television broadcasts, which had no objections or concerns. Overall, Clearcast felt that it was very clear from the context of the ad that the word would be interpreted by the viewer as intended by the advertiser, i.e. unscrupulous or disreputable craftsman .
The ad was allowed to cause harm or infringement and no further action was deemed necessary.