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Delaney Lund's Unison ad criticised for stoking the fears of the elderly

LONDON - Unison, the public sector trade union, has been accused of employing offensive and misleading scaremonger tactics in its advertising campaign to highlight the plight of private care homes.

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The union campaign, which was created by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, racked up more than 140 complaints according to the advertising watchdog.

The press campaign featured a photograph of a house divided in two. One half of the house was well-maintained and titled "Public care home"; the other half of the house was boarded up, with a sign that stated "Sold for redevelopment" outside, and titled "Private don't care home".

Underneath the picture the ad stated: "When private companies run public services they do it more for their own profit than for the benefit of the public. Over the past five years, it's led to the loss of over 50,000 care home places".

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld four complaints against the press ad, which appeared in The Independent, The Guardian, the Daily Record and the Daily Mirror.

Unison argued that the figure of 50,000 lost care home places was in the public domain and cited an article that had appeared in The Guardian. However, as the article did not say that the places had all been private, the ASA ruled the claim misleading. A second ruling stated that the union had been unfairly denigratory.

The third complaint centred on whether the ad was offensive because it implied private care homes and their staff did not care about residents. The ASA considered that the ad implied that private care homes were more interested in profit than in the welfare of their residents and that the ad was likely to cause widespread offence.

The final complaint accused Unison of creating fear and distress among residents of private care homes. Despite Unison protesting it had wanted to avoid scaremongering tactics and raise debate, the watchdog said Unison had not substantiated its claims and concluded that the advertisement was likely to cause undue fear and distress to the residents of private care homes.

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