118 118 slapped for David Bedford ‘caricature’

Moustachioed joggers will continue to run though

Directory enquiries (DQ) outfit The Number - whose ads featuring two moustachioed 1970s-style runners have been elevated to cult status - has been slapped for using the image of former British athlete David Bedford.

Communications regulator Ofcom today upheld a complaint from Mr Bedford concerning the "118 118 Runners" featured in ads for the DQ service.

In a statement the regulator said: "The Content Board found as a fact that the 118 118 Runners featured in The Number's TV advertisements do caricature David Bedford by way of a comically exaggerated representation of him looking like he did in the 1970s, sporting a hairstyle and facial hair like his at the time, and wearing running kit almost identical to the running kit that was distinctively worn by him at the time, including red socks, sky-blue shorts with gold braiding and a vest with 2 hoops.

It went on: "The Number concedes that it neither sought nor obtained David Bedford's permission to be caricatured."

Caricature without permission is a breach of advertising rules.

Despite the ruling, Ofcom stopped short of banning the ads because it ruled that Mr Bedford had not "suffered actual financial harm as a result of the caricature". As a result, The Number will continue to use its runners.

In October last year Mr Bedford wrote to The Number demanding compensation after he alleged that the DQ outfit had ripped off his image without his permission.

At the time a spokesman for The Number dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous" insisting that the joggers were not modelled on the image of David Bedford.

Instead, he explained that The Number wanted a "1970s retro style" and that the company had actually loosely based its characters on Steve Prefontaine - the US athlete who died in 1975.

Although legal letters have been exchanges, The Number has still not received a formal writ from Mr Bedford, a spokesman said today. . ®

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