An advertisement by one of the world’s largest advertisers in Britain, in the run-up to the UK general election, has sparked widespread condemnation, with many people accusing the campaign of being a blatant attempt to suppress political debate.
In the advertisement, which has been condemned by many online, a man is seen sitting in a car, looking up from a newspaper as he tells the camera that “everyone has a right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression”.
“There’s no place for a dictatorship in Britain,” he says.
“The freedom of the press is important.
That’s why it’s important to get out and vote.”
The ad, which was launched by the advertising giant Ogilvy and Mather, has been widely condemned as a blatant attack on free speech.
It was first spotted by the Independent newspaper in the UK, which cited anonymous sources saying it was a “sad and sadistic advertisement” that would only “influence a few voters” and that it would “bring shame” on British democracy.
Ogilvy, the company behind the ad, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
“Ogilvys ads have always been about giving people an opportunity to buy a product or service that helps them, not to be shamed by people who disagree with them,” said Paul McGovern, a political analyst at the University of Bristol.
“The company’s motto is ‘make your voice heard, not your opinion’,” he said.
Ogilvy is the company that runs Facebook’s “Like” button and the “Like button” for its “like” button on Twitter.
In recent months, Ogilvys adverts have appeared in several other European countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Japan.
In Britain, Ogillys ads appear in the lead-up and post-election campaigning, and the firm is well known for its anti-Trump campaign ads.
The advert, entitled “Your Voice Matters”, has been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube and was posted on the company’s Facebook page last week.
The ad says that “everyday people have the right to express their opinions in the way that they want, without fear of being silenced or being branded racist or homophobic or Islamophobic,” and urges people to “vote”.
It concludes with the warning: “The only way we can all work together to fight hate is to be free to express our ideas.”
The advert was posted in response to a tweet by British MP Jo Cox, who died last month after being shot by a man who claimed to be acting on behalf of “Islamophobic extremists”.
It was retweeted over 1,000 other times and received over 3,500 comments on Facebook.
Oggilvy said it “does not endorse this particular political message” and called on other companies to “stand up for the freedom of political speech”.
“Ogg’s ads are intended to highlight the issues facing the UK and its people, not the politics of one individual,” it said in a statement.
“We are disappointed that the Conservative Party has chosen to target the media and politicians of the Conservative party.
Oggilvies ads do not and will not represent or promote the views of any individual.”
Ogilvision’s adverts are often seen as part of the British political and economic establishment’s campaign to marginalise and discredit the Conservative-led coalition, and has been criticized by the British media as an attempt to silence political debate on social media.
“They’re targeting the political right, the Conservatives, in a way that’s quite frankly disgusting,” said Ian Haines, an academic at the London School of Economics.
“It’s a lot to get up and down and say, ‘I’m not interested in your message’,” he added.
The UK government said it would investigate the ad and take legal action if it was deemed offensive.
Omgilvisions adverts appear to have been the most successful ad campaign launched by Ogilveys in the past few years, with more than 80,000 views in less than 24 hours, according to YouTube videos.
In June, Ogiltvys released a new version of the ad in the US and in September it released a more aggressive ad campaign targeting “pro-Trump” campaigners in Australia.
The company is owned by media conglomerate Ogilvisity.