Monday, April 27, 2009

Anti-violence ad banned for being too effective

Yeah, that's right. The shocking and powerful British cinema ad for Women's Aid, starring Keira Knightley, is apparently inappropriate for UK TV audiences.

Oh, you haven't seen it yet? Then watch before reading on:



This is social marketing at its best: surprising, gripping, and memorable. And stomach-churning. Just like the issue it portrays. But censors want to cut out the violence.

The ad was directed by Atonement's Joe Wright for Grey London. It quickly made the viral rounds via YouTube and has gained notice in advertising and entertainment blogs.

The censors in question are from Clearcast, the non-governmental organization that has to pre-approve all TV commercial scripts prior to broadcast. Here's their policy on violence:

6.2.2 Violence
Violence, cruelty and injury are themes which must be handled with great care and only in cases where they can be justified are they likely to be acceptable. These cases are likely to arise in public service messages, newsreel footage, film trailers and some charity advertising. Cartoon, theatrical and slapstick treatments may also be acceptable if they are clearly divorced from reality. However care must be taken not to give young viewers the impression that copying such violence would be safe or harmless fun.


The boldface is mine. How is this not justified as a public service message? Women's Aid says that:

1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime – many of these on a number of occasions.

One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.

On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.


This decision by Clearcast, an agency that's just over a year old, is obviously a bad one. But at least the commercial is "out there", having reached over a million viewers worldwide so far. And the additional publicity that this mistake will generate can only increase that reach.

One of my causes wasn't so lucky, a few years back, when a client panicked and killed an ad we created to tell people to obey speed limits in residential areas, showing a child's funeral. We can only hope that there is enough show of support for brutal honesty in social marketing, in cases like the Women's Aid ad, that clients and regulators decide that "bold gets told"...

1 comment:

  1. i can't believe they canned the ad... crazy.

    ReplyDelete