The majority of the complainants said that the images of a live childbirth were offensive, overly graphic and unduly shocking and distressing. A significant number of the complainants said that the images of what appeared to be a dead baby were distressing, shocking and inappropriate. Further complainants believed that the ad would cause undue distress and offence to parents, pregnant women, mothers or those who had experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Complainants also said the warning message was not displayed for a sufficient period to allow them to make an informed decision about whether or not to view the ad. Others said that the warning message was insufficient to prevent them experiencing distress. Complainants also believed that the post 21:00 timing restriction was insufficient and that the ad was unsuitable to be viewed by children. Complainants also felt the ad was demeaning and exploited the mother.
A TV and video-on-demand (VOD) ad, for The Save the Children Fund:
a. The TV ad began with a warning message that stated "ADVISORY The following advertisement features a real birth scene which viewers may find distressing". The ad then showed a woman give birth to a baby with the help of a midwife. The baby was placed in a cot and the midwife was shown to wipe the baby with a towel. The baby's mother was then shown lying on her side. On-screen text stated "For a million newborns every year, their first day is also their last." The midwife was then shown administering care to the baby, who started crying. The sound of crying continued to the end of the ad. On-screen text stated "Basic training for midwives can help end first day deaths. TEXT XXXX to XXXXX to give £5".
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a post 21:00 restriction.
b. An ad with the same content appeared during 8 Out of 10 Cats on the 4OD VOD service.
The ASA received 614 complaints in relation to ad (a) and a further complaint in relation to ad (b):
The complainants objected that the ads were offensive, distressing, inappropriately scheduled, and unsuitable for broadcast on television.
The Save the Children Fund said the ad was intended to communicate a shocking and distressing statistic that one million babies die on their first day. Notwithstanding that, they believed the images of childbirth were not offensive in the context of generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. They believed there was an appreciation of programmes depicting childbirth amongst the public and cited the programmes "One Born Every Minute" and "Call the Midwife" as such examples. They pointed out that the ad included a warning message and believed that provided viewers with sufficient time to decide whether or not to view the ad.
Save the Children said the ad depicted a moment of uncertainty about the baby's wellbeing that was common during childbirth. They said crying was a generally accepted behaviour in healthy newborn babies and therefore believed the inclusion of the baby crying in the ad demonstrated that the baby was OK after receiving treatment from the midwife.
Save the Children acknowledged that some viewers may find the subject matter in the ad painful due to personal experience. However, they believed that those viewers would not want a similar situation to affect others as a result of there being no midwife or healthcare available.
Save the Children said the ad was given a post 21:00 restriction to prevent it from being seen by younger children. With regard to the ad that appeared on 4OD, they said registered users would only be served the ad if they were aged over 18 years. If the viewer was not registered, a parental control was in place and the user had to agree to terms and conditions to proceed. They said if the viewer agreed to those conditions, they agreed to being shown adult content, including ads.
Save the Children believed the ad did not undermine the mother's dignity or humanity. They said the birth was filmed with the mother's express consent and understanding that the material would be made available.
adamandeveDDB, the agency responsible for creating the ad, acknowledged that childbirth was a subject that viewers may not wish to see. They said for that reason the ad included a warning message that made clear the ad contained a real birth scene that some viewers may find distressing. They believed that gave viewers the opportunity to avoid viewing the ad.
adamandeveDDB said childbirth was commonly depicted in programmes such as "One Born Every Minute" and "Call the Midwife". They believed the common depiction of childbirth in those programmes indicated that a birth scene was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
adamandeveDDB said the birth was filmed with the mother's express consent and understanding that the material would be made available. They believed the ad depicted childbirth in a sensitive manner and with the privacy and dignity of the mother protected.
adamandeveDDB said they had scheduled the ad in compliance with the post 21:00 restriction. They also said programming was chosen to ensure no distress or offence could be caused as a result of an unavoidable juxtaposition. They said much of the scheduling was focused around news programming.
Clearcast believed the post 21:00 restriction would prevent the ad from being seen by children who may find the subject matter disturbing and emotionally difficult to cope with. They also believed the restriction would prevent the ad being seen by children who were too young to be aware of the process of child birth. They believed older teenagers would have a greater understanding of childbirth due to their secondary school education. They therefore believed those viewers were equipped to tackle the distressing subject matter.
Clearcast acknowledged the complainants' concerns that the ad was offensive, but believed that the birthing process was a natural act that was an intrinsic part of human life. They also said there had been an increase in the popularity of programmes that featured live births. They cited the programme "One Born Every Minute" as one such example. In that context, they considered the depiction of birth in the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. They also believed the potential to offend was mitigated by the inclusion of a warning at the outset of the ad.
Clearcast said the mother was fully informed and in agreement over her appearance in the ad. The believed the ad portrayed the mother in a dignified manner, whilst communicating the realities of birth in the developing world.
4OD said the ad was scheduled to appear on 4OD after 21:00, which was consistent with the scheduling restriction applied to the TV ad. They also said they monitored programme content to ensure there were no inappropriate juxtapositions. They pointed out that the ad included a warning message and said that VOD users had the ability to pause or discontinue viewing the material.
The ASA understood that the birth scene was filmed with the mother's express consent and understanding that the material would be made available. We considered the ads communicated the issue of death during childbirth in a manner that respected the dignity of the mother whilst raising awareness of that issue.
We considered the post 21:00 restriction that had been applied to the ads would reduce the risk of younger children seeing the ads. We therefore considered the scheduling of the ads reduced the risk of the ads causing distress to young viewers.
We acknowledged the subject of the ad was distressing in nature; in particular, for individuals who had been affected by the subject matter as a result of personal experience.
The ads included a warning message that alerted viewers to their content and we considered the warning gave viewers the opportunity to avoid viewing the ads. We acknowledged the ads depicted a scene in which there was uncertainty over the wellbeing of the baby and noted that a number of viewers believed the ads depicted a dead baby. However, the baby was heard crying and we therefore considered the ads made clear that the baby was alive. Whilst we acknowledged that some viewers may find the ads offensive, we considered the presentation of the ads was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. and 4.8 4.8 Advertisements must not condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment. Advertisements must not prejudice respect for human dignity. (Harm and offence), 16.3.3 16.3.3 disrespect the dignity of those on whose behalf an appeal is being made (Charities) and 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. (Scheduling) and ad (b) under CAP Code rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) and 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 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), but did not find them to be in breach.
No further action necessary.