BBC scraps 'psychotic' advert

A BBC advert promoting the launch of digital television has been scrapped after hundreds of viewers complained it was “weird” and “disturbingly psychotic.”

Less than two months since the Faces advert was unveiled, the corporation yesterday said it had “concluded” the campaign after reports some viewers were offended.

In a statement, the BBC said it was “very conscious” some of the public took a dislike to its television promo, but conceded it had been successful.

Its aim was to raise the profile of the BBC’s digital services but public dialogue about the changeover has focused as much on the “scary” promo, as the service it sought to promote.

Over 400 people complained that watching a huge animate head bounce over hills and morph into familiar BBC presenters was disturbing, off-putting at dinner times and unsuitable for young children.

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

At the time of the complaints, the BBC defended the trailer for digital TV, saying it had been road-tested by a panel of viewers chosen by the broadcaster.

Aside from the image of small heads making up a massive bouncing head, the advert used “upbeat cheerful music” combined with “innovative eye catching imagery” to raise the profile of digital, the BBC said.

But viewers were unsatisfied, expressing outrage over the corporation’s decision to take the views of a focus group over license payers.

“It doesn't bother me enough to register a complaint, but I am once again astonished by the official BBC view on the various adverse comments,” one user on the Points of View website said, referring to the backlash.

“They have done their market research, and a sample of TV viewers have given the 'head' the thumbs-up. Who are these people who are always available to rubber-stamp disasters? Do we apply somewhere to be contacted by the BBC if they need a valuable opinion on sensitive matters?”

The BBC has now pulled the advert, said to cost around £50,000, citing the promo as part of wider and now “very successful” attempt, to stimulate interest in its non-core services.

“The digital faces trail was one of a very long series designed to capture the attention of viewers and stimulate interest in the BBC's digital services,” reads a recent statement.

“Given that we feel the trail has achieved its aims, we feel that we can now conclude the campaign and use the air-time to let viewers know about the fantastic Christmas in store for them on the BBC.”

One TV fan, seemingly late to the debate about the ethics of bouncing heads, will certainly be pleased that Faces is no more, as will the BBC at the prospect of retaining a viewer over the Christmas period.

“Interesting to find others don't like it,” said the latecomer. “I find it very creepy and I can't figure out why, but I do flick channels when it comes on.”


14th December 2005

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