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Passat direct mail is clearly an advert, says ASA

A Passat Highline direct mail advert, which had numerous complaints for being offensive to those undergoing medical diagnosis, has been thrown out by the advertising watchdog.

The djrect mail comprised an outer envelope, form and booklet. The form resembled a prescription form while the booklet’s cover looked like a medical file.

A table listing dates and symptoms was written: “3/12/07 Signs of stress 4/01/08 Very irritable 1/02/08 constant headaches”.

Volkswagen Group was suggesting such symptoms could be the result of commuting – Inside the booklet, was photos of the Passat Highline, with the text: “Just what the doctor ordered… to cure the misery of the commute, a Passat Highline really is the best medicine.”

Complainants said the mailing misleadingly resembled notes and a doctor’s prescription form and was not obviously marketing.

It was also suggested that the mailing could cause undue anxiety or offensiveness to those undergoing medical diagnosis or treatment.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority said that consumers were unlikely to expect confidential medical notes to be posted to patients.

Furthermore, “How does your daily commute make you feel” on the outer envelope did not relate to a doctor’s letter and VW logos also appeared on the front and back of the booklet, making it clear it was a marketing communication.

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