The television advertisement promoted Bank of Ireland’s Big Move initiative to help consumers move banks easily following the withdrawal from the market of two other banks. The scene objected to by the complainants depicted a man and a woman standing over a burning barrel. The narrator, standing beside them says, “Break ups are always a bit… Messy.”
The woman, holding a money jar in the shape of a hippo then says “They gave me this when we first met…” before proceeding to throw the jar into the burning barrel in evident anger. The scene cuts as the man and woman begin dumping paper into the flames.
Two complaints were received in relation to the advertisement. Both complainants objected to the depiction of the man and woman burning documents in the barrel. One complainant also objected to the burning of the hippo and considered that this scene normalised the illegal and environmentally corrupt practice of backyard burning.
The advertisers said that before beginning production they conducted significant research into what was environmentally safe to allow the creative idea to work. Their research found that the burning of paper was allowed as long as it was not glossy nor coloured, which they said was the case here. They said it also must be burnt in a safe environment and for that they used an SFX fire ring(1), so it was a controlled flame with an SFX officer on hand to monitor.
The advertisers explained that the advertisement was playing to ‘RomCom’ stereotypes (including burning ex-partner’s belongings/mementos) and that they had taken some creative licence in the spirit of entertainment. They said they would not encourage people to burn documents versus recycling them. In relation to the hippo prop, they said that it was made of ceramics and that special care was taken to ensure all materials, including paint, were non-toxic and safe to be burnt.
The advertisers highlighted that no materials, including the hippo, were actually fully burnt in the making of the advert, as they cut away from each shot the moment the materials hit the fire. They said that the materials were re-used for several takes.
The ASAI Executive noted information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which outlined that backyard burning of waste was illegal and was subject to prosecution (https://www.epa.ie/take-action/in-the-community/waste/backyard-burning/)
Furthermore, the Executive also noted the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 which allowed for waste burning only in cases were the material burned related to uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves or similar waste generated by agricultural practices (https://www.epa.ie/publications/compliance--enforcement/waste/Burning-of-Waste- Regs.pdf).
(1)1 A fire ring is a stone or metal (often steel) structure designed to encircle a campfire that is placed directly on the ground. These bottomless rings contain wood-burning campfires and aim to prevent the fires from spreading and developing into wildfires. They also prevent logs from falling and can catch stray sparks before they can burn people sitting nearby (https://www.wayfair.com/sca/ideas-and-advice/outdoor/fire-rings-what-they-are-how-to-use-them- T9219).
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee acknowledged the significant research carried out by the advertisers in advance of production as to what was environmentally safe, as well as their efforts to ensure that all materials, including paint, were non-toxic and safe to be burnt.
However, the Committee noted the Code requirement that marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society (3.3). Having reviewed the information contained within the 2009 Regulations, as well as the information published by the EPA in relation to backyard burning, the Committee noted that except in very limited circumstances, the backyard burning of waste was illegal and subject to prosecution. As such, the Committee considered that the depiction of backyard burning within the advertisement was not responsible and they therefore considered the advertisement to be in breach of Code section 3.3.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form.