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'A dreadful mistake was made': Sir Richard Branson tells Virgin Mobile to pull 'ill-judged' advert that critics say makes fun of rape
EXCLUSIVE: Virgin founder slams Virgin Mobile US team for online advertSays they 'acknowledge a dreadful mistake was made' and it will be pulled
Sir Richard doesn't own the US mobile brand but 'made his thoughts clear'
00:06 GMT, 10 December 2012
Sir Richard Branson last night attacked an advert for Virgin Mobile US that appears to make light of rape.
The online advert shows a man standing behind a woman and covering her eyes with his hand before giving her a small present. The caption reads: ‘The gift of Christmas surprise. Necklace Or chloroform’
The advert provoked a furious reaction from Twitter users, who described it as ‘disgusting’ and ‘totally unacceptable’.
Joke: The advert featured a picture of a man behind a woman with his hand in front of her eyes, giving her a small red box, and the caption read: 'The gift of Christmas surprise. Necklace Or chloroform'
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard, 62, wrote on his blog: ‘Having just seen, for the first time, the Virgin Mobile US advert which has upset many today, I agree it is ill-judged.
‘Although I don’t own the company [it is owned by a US firm, Sprint Nextel], it carries our brand.
‘I will speak to the team there, make my thoughts clear and see what can be done about it.’
He later added: ‘They acknowledge a dreadful mistake was made. The advert will be withdrawn within the hour, never to be seen again.’
Sir Richard – a father-of-two who was
born in 1950, founded Virgin in 1970 and has a net worth of 2.6billion –
admitted to his 2.7million followers on Twitter that the advert was
Acknowledgement: Sir Richard Branson wrote on his blog on the Virgin Group website: 'Having just seen, for the first time, the Virgin Mobile US advert which has upset many today, I agree it is ill-judged'
Twitter users roundly criticised the
advert, describing it as 'disgusting' and 'a publicity disaster waiting
to happen' – and @Becca_DP said on the website: '”Ill-judged” is a
bit of an understatement'.
'Virgin Mobile US usually get these things right, although on this occasion it is clear they have gone too far'
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin founder
People had earlier been campaigning for
the company to take down the advert, with journalist Sally Churchward
saying on Twitter: 'Is a rape “joke” really part of your Christmas
Charity project worker Sue Conway added: 'Using rape or domestic violence jokes to sell products (is) totally unacceptable'.
Chloroform is an obsolete anaesthetic, although it is still available and used as an industrial strength cleaner – and has been employed by criminals in the past to knock out victims.
A 35-year-old husband was jailed for eight years October 2011 after using chloroform to knock out his virgin wife – a Bangladeshi immigrant who was 21 at the time – and rape her in east London.