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LONDON-A McDonald's commercial narrowly escaped a U.K. TV ban despite viewers' complaints about the portrayal of estranged parents in the ad.

The spot, called "The Go-Between," features a young boy successfully engineering a meeting between his separated parents at one of the fast-food chain's outlets. It is the first of a four-part series in a $10.4 million campaign created by Leo Burnett, London.

But 60 viewers complained about "the exploitative use" of an emotional matter involving children in the McDonald's spot that started airing this spring. Some believed the story line's favorable outcome would raise false hopes among children from broken families.

In April, the broadcast regulatory body Independent Television Commission reprimanded the advertiser for underestimating the extent to which viewers might be affected by such an emotional subject.

However, the ITC finally decided the spot did not breach its codes against offensive advertising.

"We would take [the ITC's] guidance to heart," said Brad Trask, McDonald's corporate affairs executive here, indicating the company would take the agency's concerns into account the next time. "But we still support the commercial because it takes a real moment in our customers' lives-whether they come from a nuclear family or an estranged one." McDonald's said it had also consulted estranged parents before going ahead with the campaign.

But David Kisilevsky, account director at Leo Burnett, said, "There is no reason why it [the ITC's reprimand] should have any impact on the future use of this particular commercial."

The remaining three spots in the four-part series are not expected to be controversial.

U.K. commercials are screened by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre here before they go on the air. The ITC intervenes only if the transmitted commercial breaches the national advertising codes and if there are complaints. It then consults the advertiser and broadcaster concerned to justify their decisions.

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