The advert the authorities won’t let you watch

What types of adverts get banned in Britain?

You’d be right if you guessed that sometimes regulators deem an ad ‘too sexy’ such as Beyonce’s perfume commercial last year.  Or that tastelessness and animal cruelty should be banned in ads like the one for Paddy Power involving blind footballers kicking cats. And most people would agree that authorities probably have consumers’ best interests in mind when they decide a commercial is misleading such as when a yogurt drink manufacturer overstated health claims.

But what about a 60-second spot that aims to raise public awareness about the impact of famine in Somalia? Surely no authority would object to conveying the message that 30,000 children have died in three months and 750,000 more are at risk of starving to death. Surely not.

But that’s exactly what’s happened in the UK. The body responsible for clearing television adverts for broadcast on commercial stations such as Channel 4 has refused to approve ONE’s new public service announcement, ‘The F Word – Famine is the Real Obscenity’.

Their rationale? From their ‘professional standpoint… the content of [our] ad [is] in breach of section 7 of the BCAP code and therefore unacceptable for broadcast within the UK’. Section 7 is about political advertising. We understand why it exists – to stop singular political parties buying broadcast leverage.  But we are nonpartisan, without any affiliation to political parties or other political organisations.

Further clarification of their decision was no less baffling. ‘This is because the ad itself is not a traditional money raising ad, rather it seems to be aiming to motivate and enlist people to create change’. Quite right, it is. ONE is a grassroots campaign of more than 2.5 million people committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases. We are trying to engage members of the public on an international issue. Our members’ voices help achieve great things every day.

So… Do you agree? Post your comments below and we will forward them on to the Committee of Advertising Practice (the body that maintains the code of practice that regulates advertising in the UK). Please also share the video with friends and family in the UK. And if you are on twitter, show your outrage at this decision of being #censored and support @ONECampaignUK’s efforts to #endfamine. Don’t let the authorities win this one.


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