A charity’s Christmas ad depicting Father Christmas with Alzheimer’s disease has escaped a ban despite dozens of complaints that it would be offensive and cause distress to children.
A total of 36 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the Aardman Animations created Alzheimer’s Research ad that launched last November and was narrated by Stephen Fry.
The ad depicted an animated story of a young girl being told that Santa had stopped delivering presents because he had developed a disease. She then travelled to see the elves, who explained that research could find a way to fix him. A voice-over at the end of the ad stated, “Alzheimer’s disease can affect anyone. Only research has the power to change the future”.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with an ex-kids timing restriction, whereby it should not be transmitted in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children under 16 years of age.
When contacted by the ASA, Alzheimer’s Research UK said the the ad was the result of research, public consultation and work with families affected by dementia. Its aim was to produce a film that was sensitive to the lives of people affected by dementia, but ensured that those unaffected by the disease could understand its nature and recognise the need for research, the charity added.
The ASA considered that the ad was emotive and concerned a subject matter which some viewers might find upsetting, particularly those who had family members with the illness. It also acknowledged that the character of Santa was likely to appeal to children and considered that the depiction of Santa as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and no longer being able to deliver presents, had the potential to cause discomfort to some younger children.
In a statement the ASA said: “However, we considered that the topic had been handled sensitively and that the story was told in a gentle, non-graphic way with a generally positive ending. We considered that the emotional nature of the appeal was proportional to the content of the ad and the seriousness of the issue being discussed. Moreover, we acknowledged that the ad had been cleared with an ex-kids restriction, whereby it would not be shown during programmes that were likely to have particular appeal to children, and especially younger children. We also noted that Alzheimer’s Research UK had further chosen to only broadcast the ad after 7.30pm, with one exception.
“We considered that an ex-kids scheduling restriction was appropriate, and did not consider that the scenes shown would demand stricter scheduling restrictions or a warning prior to the ad being shown.
“We therefore concluded that the ad had not been scheduled inappropriately, was not irresponsible and was unlikely to cause distress to those who viewed it.”
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