National Post

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Thursday, November 04, 1999

Ottawa radio stations pull tough wife-beating ad
Object to portrayal of men
Paul Brent
National Post

Crime Stoppers' hard-hitting radio advertisement, which depicts a screaming woman being beaten by her spouse, has been taken off the air at three Ottawa radio stations which objected to its portrayal of men.

"You are painting males here in this particular ad with such a terrible brush, that we're all wife beaters or women beaters," said David Mitchell, program director with talk radio station CFRA. Mr. Mitchell decided to pull the ad last week just a few days after airing, a move that was followed by two Ottawa sister stations that are also part of the CHUM Ltd. radio group.

"You can hear and feel the punches, they did an excellent job on the creative," said Mr. Mitchell. "We're a nice community here, and it's not that it does not happen, but this is a definite assault."

The radio ad and a similarly themed 30-second TV ad, part of a $300,000, month-long campaign in major Ontario markets, were designed to be controversial and attention-getting. Created by Yield Integrated Communications and Advertising of Toronto, the ads have sparked a number of tips as well as complaints to Crime Stoppers toll-free crime hotline, the group said.

"When we saw the content of the ads, yes, there was some concern that there would be some controversy," said Ed Lemont, president of the Association of Ontario Crime Stoppers. "But it is still an important enough message, the message you wanted to get out there is domestic abuse is a crime and it should not be tolerated."

Mr. Lemont acknowledged CHUM's other objection that the beatings depicted in the ads should spark a 911 police emergency call rather than a Crime Stoppers call, but he said the tip line's confidentiality could encourage neighbours who do not want to identify themselves to come forward.

Funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, the Victims Services Unit and the Ontario Women's Directorate, the ads will likely continue to run as free Public Service Announcements when the paid effort ends in two weeks.

The provincial government said it is pleased with the effort. "My reaction to the ad was, 'Whoa, this is certainly pushing the envelope in terms of anything I have seen,' but when you are dealing with a very serious crime and a very serious social problem maybe this is how you have to address it," said Jim Cowan, director of communications with the Solicitor General. "To a certain extent, like any advertising I suppose, its purpose is to create awareness."

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