MONTREAL - Giovanni Iuliani isn't laughing about an ad campaign by Quebec's biggest convenience store chain which features happy clowns meeting gruesome deaths in two separate ads.

One of Couche-Tard's online ads has a multi-coloured clown giggling uncontrollably as he is hacked to pieces.

The other sees another clown just as ecstatic as he gets shredded to pieces by a mechanical saw and coming out the other end in the form of balloons and pieces of confetti.

Iuliani, a retired clown better known as "Patapouf," calls Couche-Tard's advertising campaign for a slushy drink "disgusting" and "in very bad taste."

"Why do they use my profession? Why don't they use a policeman and see how they feel?," the 68-year-old said in an interview.

IuIiani wants the Association des clowns du Quebec, which represents about 60 clowns in the province, to protest the campaign.

"They should say we're an honourable profession and we don't want to be portrayed that way," he said. "We don't want to look like insane people."

But Couche-Tard says it is comfortable with the campaign aimed at promoting the 10th anniversary of Sloche, the company's popular slushy drink.

Spokeswoman Jacinthe Harnois says adults who may find the ads distasteful or shocking are not the ones being targeted.

"We're trying to reach teenagers, people between the ages of 13 and 18," she said on Thursday.

"They really like our campaigns, so I don't care if older people don't like them."

Harnois said the ads are appearing only on the Internet because that's where youngsters are easy to reach.

She joked that the clowns featured in the ads were just happy doing their jobs.

"When we look at the ads, there's no blood, there's no pain, there's no screaming," Harnois added.

Iuliani said Couche-Tard probably won't pull the ads unless there's a huge protest against them, adding that they were designed to be provocative.

"They're doing that so that people will complain and that will triple their publicity for the same price," he said.

Iuliani has appeared twice on Canada Post stamps as "Patapouf" and has spent 20 of his 50 years in the circus business as a clown.

He appeared on one stamp in 1998 before gettting his face on another in 2001 to honour the 75th anniversary of the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal.

Iuliani also has a 38-year son who is also a clown.

Janet Feasby, vice-president of Advertising Standards Canada, admits not too many people complain about ads on the Internet.

"We do get complaints, but primarily the complaints might be about a retailer and someone who's tried to order a product and found that the information is not accurate,"

Feasby said the agency tends not to hear from consumers about "bad taste" issues.

But she added that if anyone wants to complain, the clown ads would be examined to see if they appear to be explicit or if they condone violence.

The Advertising Standards website is www.adstandards.com