A TV ad, in May 2022 for The National Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), included a scene that depicted a living room. Shouting was heard from both an adult and a child crying, as if coming from the adjoining house.
On-screen text then appeared that stated, "Half a million children a year suffer abuse in the UK Abuse can stop with a call to the NSPCC. Will you donate now to help us answer?" The next scene depicted an off-screen person contacting the NSPCC helpline about the incident including a brief dialogue with a person from the NSPCC who said, “You’re through to Caroline at the NSPCC helpline how can we help?” The caller said, “I think the little boy next door is being hurt.” The call handler replied, “You’ve done the right thing. Can you explain what’s happening?” The caller said, “I can hear him screaming. He’s in pain, but his mum’s just shouting at him.” The call handler replied, “OK, we’re going to do everything we can to help him.”
A voice-over and on-screen text stated, “This Childhood Day help us keep answering the calls that can stop abuse” followed by a number to text to donate to the NSPCC.
IssueFive complainants challenged whether the ad was harmful and irresponsible because it suggested that people should call the NSPCC if they witnessed child cruelty or abuse, rather than calling the police.
ResponseNSPCC and Clearcast responded that when reviewing the script for the NSPCC, they did not consider that the ad would discourage viewers from contacting the police regarding child abuse. The NSPCC confirmed that all reports made would be referred to not only the police but also social services where necessary. They said that the ad encouraged viewers to call the NSPCC if they were unsure of what to do and would be given general advice on next steps and safeguarding. They would always encourage the police be contacted if a child were in immediate danger.
The ASA considered that viewers would interpret the ad as highlighting the long-term work of the NSPCC, including in particular, their existing helpline which provided callers with advice about what to do when they became aware of potential child abuse. The ad included a voice-over which said, “This Childhood Day help us keep answering the calls that can stop abuse”, followed by a number to text to donate to the NSPCC. We considered that whilst many viewers would learn about the NSPCC helpline from the ad, they would also understand that the ad’s purpose was to highlight what the NSPCC did and give them the opportunity to donate to it.
We considered that the ad did not imply that the NSPCC were themselves an emergency service, or that people should call the NSPCC instead of the police. We understood that the helpline gave advice, and, when appropriate, the advice would include speaking directly to the police.
We therefore concluded that the ad was not harmful or irresponsible, and therefore did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility), 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. and 4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.