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30/10/02 . Richard Adamsby . Guardian . UK  
 
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It's sometimes said that the Advertising Standards Authority is a quango of bullies - ready to punish small fry for infringing its rules, but less keen to mix it with the big agencies and their clients.  

How refreshing, then, that the ASA stood up to the might of Ms Jane Walker of Harrow and sided with the "little guy", which in this case was McDonald's Restaurants Ltd of Illinois, US, and fledgling agency Leo Burnett. Ms Walker, you may recall, was one of the 153 people who reported McDonald's to the ASA for its mathematically-illiterate "40,312 possible combinations" ad campaign. In fact, there were only 256 - Leo Burnett's staff couldn't grasp the difference between choices and permutations. Anyway, the ASA bravely found in favour of McDonalds, so Ms Walker appealed. The ASA's council reviews its own decisions - that's handy - and has now judged that the difference between 255 and 40,322 "was not so exaggerated as to be misleading". Hmm. I'd like to sell cars to ASA boss, Lord Borrie: "It's 300, your lordship, but shall we round it up to 40,000?"

The ASA's adjudication contains this gem from McDonald's: "The advertisers said they were aware that some people might consider a double cheeseburger and milkshake to be the same permutation as a milkshake and double cheeseburger but they believed that each permutation could be considered a different eating experience." So a milkshake and burger is a "different eating experience" to a burger and milkshake? Proof, if needed, that advertising agencies do think the public are idiots.

 
 
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