ASA Bans Seizure-Inducing Citroen Ad

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A Citroen ad has been banned by the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority after it led a viewer to have an epileptic seizure.

The ad, for the Citroen DS4, out of EuroRSCG London, features many flashing images, all accompanied by flickering text. The message of the spot highlights our "yes men" culture, and encourages people to stop saying "yes" and start saying "no." At one point in the 45-second spot, hundreds of yes-es are seen floating across the screen.

It's enough to give anyone at least a headache. But the ASA received ten complaints that were much more serious, saying the ad had brought on symptoms of photo-sensitive epilepsy, with one viewer actually suffering a seizure.

This is not the first time television programming has been linked with epileptic seizures. In 1997, close to 800 Japanese kids watching a particular episode of Pokemon were taken to the hospital for exhibiting epilepsy symptoms and suffering seizures. In 2007, the launch footage for the 2012 London Olympics logo also reportedly triggered similar symptoms.

Broadcaster Clearcast had previously cleared the Citroen ad after it passed the Harding Flash and Pattern Analyzer Test. The test, based on research by Graham Harding, is automated, and analyzes video for certain flashing patterns that could cause epileptic seizures. All U.K. programming has to pass the test before it can be broadcast, a regulation that came into effect after the Pokemon incidents in Japan. Clearcast said it had spoken to the manufacturers of the test, who have "reviewed and refined their algorithms" so it can detect patterns like this better in the future.

Ofcom, the U.K. regulator for the broadcast industry, said that one specific sequence, which alternated black and white yes-es, was the most provocative ad. The use of automated test equipment like the Harding FPA did not rule out a possible violation of Ofcom guidelines, it added.

The ASA concluded that the ad breached the relevant code for flashing images and banned it from appearing again.

See the ad below and let us know what you think of the ban -- and the effectiveness of tests like the Harding FPA -- in the comments.

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