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Booking.com travel advert cleared by watchdog

Holiday items Image copyright Thinkstock

A travel website's TV advert that used the word "booking" as an apparent substitute for an expletive has been cleared by the advertising watchdog.

The majority of the 2,345 viewers who complained about the Booking.com advert said the substitution was offensive.

But the Advertising Standards Authority said the word was used comically.

Booking.com said it was used in a positive tone and to reinforce brand recognition. It is the second most-complained about UK advert of all time.

The online travel agent said there was "no ambiguity" about the use of the word "booking".

'Conveying joy'

It had been used to convey enthusiasm and joy, rather than with any negative or derogatory tone often associated with swear words, it added.

The advert, which screened on television and in cinemas, featured holidaymakers arriving at their destinations while a voiceover said: "It doesn't get any booking better than this.

"Look at the view, look at the booking view."

The word was repeated a number of other times in the advert.

Some viewers said the advert was likely to encourage swearing among children and some reported seeing it during television programmes such as a Harry Potter film, or at cinema screenings of family films.

The Cinema Advertising Association said it had considered both the advert's potential to offend and the long history of word substitution in British humour, which often appeared in family entertainment.

Pistorius ad pulled

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the voiceover artist enunciated the word clearly and that it was "sufficiently distinct" so as not to be confused.

"We understood that a small number of complainants had reported hearing their children swear after seeing the ad, but considered that because the ad did not contain any expletives, this behaviour would not arise from the ad itself," it said.

The ASA concluded that although some might find it "distasteful", it was "unlikely" to cause widespread offence.

Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius advert, which offered "money back if he walks" during his trial over the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, remains the most complained-about UK advert of all time.

It was immediately pulled last year and later the ASA upheld the 5,525 complaints and banned it.

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