Aviva has been reprimanded over its "Downton Abbey" sponsorship idents after media regulator Ofcom decided they broke advertising rules.
The 10-second 'idents' were broadcast at the beginning and end of each ad break on the hit ITV show.
They told the story of "Gary", an Aviva customer who claimed on his insurance after a motorcycle accident, the injuries of which forced him to retrain for a new career.
Sponsorship idents are not technically classed as adverts and so cannot directly advertise products.
However, Ofcom ruled Aviva's bumpers were advertisements rather than sponsorship messages, as one scene referred to the benefit of using an Aviva income protection policy.
"Credits must not encourage the purchase or rental of the products or services of the sponsor or a third party," said Ofcom.
"The focus of the credit must be the sponsorship arrangement itself."
Ofcom said the bumpers "amounted to an advertising message", thereby breaking the rules.
The case referred to an episode in which main character Gary, whilst reading a sheet of paper, said "It is my insurance policy. I think I am still covered if I do that course."
ITV argued it was never specified that the character was referring to an Aviva policy and that the ident promoted the benefits of insurance in general.
However, Ofcom said the reference to a policy, quickly followed by Aviva branding, implied the character was talking about an Aviva product.
When the bumpers were first aired in September they sparked an angry backlash from viewers on Twitter, who claimed the depiction of the aftermath of a road accident was spoiling their enjoyment of the period drama.
However, several IFAOnline readers said shock tactics were necessary to make consumers realise the risk of having no insurance.
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