BBC digital ad 'too scary for children'

The BBC has been forced to defend its latest advertising campaign to promote digital television after 400 viewers complained it was “scary,” “disgusting” and “psychotic.”

The corporation has been screening the Faces advert to heighten awareness of the national switch over to digital television, which will become mandatory for the entire UK population.

It features a huge animated head that plugs the forthcoming service, before it bounces over hills and morphs into familiar BBC presenters like John Simpson, the broadcaster’s World Affairs Editor.

According to the corporation, the promo is intended to inspire viewers to sign up for extra digital services, by using” innovative animation, eye-catching imagery” and “upbeat, cheerful music.”

But for hundreds of licence payers, the clip has proved eye-catching for all the wrong reasons – inspiring only their fears and thoughts on the BBC website.

“As a registered psychotherapist, I wish to protest that this image is disturbingly psychotic,” reads one recent entry. “Its unacknowledged aggression could make a fragile viewer ill”.

Another writes: “I was having my dinner when the advert came on and it was all I could do to keep my food down. The images actually made my skin crawl.”

Other viewers said the symbolism of the ad combined with a bouncing head that eventually collapses was just too much too bear.

“My youngest child was most distressed when Postman Pat’s head disappeared,” said one.

“In accordance with other viewers I was strongly offended by the BBC’s promotion for digital TV,” explained another.

“To have people’s heads bouncing about the countryside must be hugely disturbing…I feel it would upset some younger and more squeamish viewers.”

Despite accompanying posts citing the ad as “disturbing,” and at the least, “a bit weird,” the BBC said it tested the promotion on a focus group before airing the promo.

One viewer did enjoy the trailer: “Come on people, there is nothing disturbing about the advert…this is a very good piece of computer generated” advertising.

The Faces theme was originally introduced by a previous ad campaign showing the channel’s regulars, such as football commentator Alan Hansen and John Simpson, ripping off their faces to become another well-known BBC personality.

This too had mixed results, but failed to unearth as many complaints as a 2003 promotion entitled the Cliffhanger.

During the clip, a woman is seen escaping from a fire only to fall over a cliff - managing to grab a foothold as she tumbles.

Instead of helping, a couple of onlookers watch the cliff face transfixed, under the BBC tag line “everyone likes to watch.”

The trailer was pulled after it received hundreds of viewer complaints.


25th November 2005

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