The advertisement featured children suffering from starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The opening scene was that of a mother holding her malnourished baby (Arun). The onscreen text stated “One child dies from hunger every 10 seconds”. Other scenes contained children in various states of malnutrition, with further on-screen text stating “Help starving children. Please give €2 a week”
We then see a healthier child being fed by its mother and a woman working in the fields with a little girl.
The final scene is that of Arun again being held by her mother accompanied by the on screen text “Help starving children. Please give €2 a week. Concern worldwide www.concern.net.”
The voiceover to the above scenes stated:
“Arun can’t go much longer without food but there’s nothing left at home. Her mother is desperate for help to come soon. Arun could die waiting for the help that never came. Hungry sick children like Arun are dying right now but we can help stop the hunger. Concern Worldwide is doing all we can to get to starving children in some of the remotest parts of the world. Please give just €2 a week so we can reach more starving children. You can provide emergency food that saves lives. You can help families grow enough food so they don’t keep facing the threat of hunger. Please go online now and give just €2 a week because if Arun has to wait much longer she won’t survive. Thank you.”
The complainant objected to the advertisement which she saw before an early evening news programme. She considered that the imagery was upsetting and graphic and not appropriate at a time when children might be watching.
The advertisers said their current television advertisement dealt with the issue of starvation. They appreciated that while it was a sensitive issue to many people, it was central to their relief and development work overseas. Many millions of people in Sub Saharan Africa coped with the consequences of chronic hunger every day and their advertisement reflected the symptoms faced by those millions of people who developed ill-health through lack of food. The footage in question was filmed in a Sub-Saharan country where they worked.
Regarding the use of the images selected, the advertisers said they believed they were in compliance with the ASAI Code and also with the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising in Ireland. They said their advertising was cleared by both RTE in Ireland and Clearcast who cleared advertising for television in the UK.
They said the issue of chronic hunger was a difficult and disturbing subject. Each year, however, the public donated tens of millions to Concern, which they spend on communities in the developing world. To ensure their accountability to supporters they communicated back the reality faced by communities with whom they worked and made every effort to ensure that their advertising accurately reflected the symptoms of chronic hunger faced by communities in countries like South Sudan or the Central African Republic (CAR) at the present time. They did not exaggerate the health effects of chronic hunger on people and were mindful of the dignity of the people who featured in their communications and sought the permission of each person or their adult guardian before filming. They firmly believed they should honestly and accurately communicate their work to their supporters, even if it was with the image of people suffering the disturbing effects of extreme poverty.
The advertisers said while standing over the accuracy of their advertisement, they acknowledged that the subject matter was troubling, and that is why they acted responsibly and avoided placing their advertising during children’s programmes. Their media was booked during daytime hours between 9:00 – 17:29, excluding children’s programmes.
As an organisation that deals with children, they said that they are particularly aware of their responsibilities and would never wish to cause upset to children or offend their parents with their marketing communications and that is why they do not place their advertising in or around children’s programming.
Complaint not upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They acknowledged that while some people may find the scenes portrayed upsetting, they were based on facts and filmed in an area where Concern had worked in providing aid to the people who lived there.
The Committee also considered that the purpose of Concern’s campaign was to generate public interest in their work and by providing genuine footage from areas where they had worked, this would help them in the long term to raise funds and provide further help to the people of Africa.
In the circumstances they did not consider that the portrayal of the images in question was inappropriate.
Finally they noted that the advertising had not been targeted at children or placed in or around children’s programming. They considered therefore that the Code had not been breached in this case.
Action Required: No further action was required.