Britain's advertising watchdog on Wednesday banned an anti-terrorism commercial that asked people to watch out for suspicious behavior by their neighbors, including keeping curtains closed and paying for things in cash.
The Advertising Standards Authority said the radio ad could cause "serious offense" to law-abiding citizens.
The ad was part of a campaign for a police anti-terrorist hotline. It described a man who "likes to keep himself to himself," doesn't have a bank card and keeps his curtains closed, before advising that "this may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions."
The watchdog said innocent listeners who identified with the behavior described could be offended by the implication that it was suspicious.
"We also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described," it said, ruling that the ad should not run again.
The Association of Chief Police Officers, which sponsored the commercial, apologized to the "small number" of listeners who had been offended.
The Metropolitan Police force defended the campaign of which the ad formed a part, saying that "the behavior listed in the advert was based on trends identified by police and had been included in evidence given at recent terrorism trials."
The ads (you can listen to them here) might sound silly, but are certainly not offensive. And here we are - so afraid of offending people that nobody will bother to report legitimate suspicions. The fact that the ads were based on factual evidence given in recent terrorism trials is of little importance to those people whose feelings might be hurt. A country that believes it is more important to protect feelings than it is to protect the lives of its citizens is already lost.