Two versions of a television advertisement for Three Ireland broadband featured a woman working in an office who receives a video call from her daughter. The child is attending a birthday party and while talking to her mother, runs towards a bouncy castle asking her mother to “come bounce with me”. As the mother is answering her daughter, it appears as if she walks into something and she falls backwards. She stands up and looks around her and sees her daughter bouncing in the office with papers flying through the air. Both mother and daughter start running through the office, bouncing and doing somersaults, at the same time the lights come on automatically as they both moved through the office. At one stage in the advertisement both mother and daughter run towards a balcony wall that overlooks an open atrium. They then somersault over the balcony and are shown ‘floating’ in the air surrounded by papers. The scene then changes to the child landing on the bouncy castle. In one version the child is seen holding onto the phone while on the bouncy castle, while on the second she is empty handed. The scene reverts back to the mother who is smiling holding her phone and walking into an elevator with her papers in her hand.
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Six complaints were received regarding the advertising.
One complainant objected to the advertisement that featured the child holding onto the mobile phone on the bouncing castle as they considered it was irresponsible and dangerous to carry a hard and potentially damaging object on a bouncy castle.
All other complainants objected to the scene where the mother and daughter jumped over the balcony, somersaulting in the air over an atrium. They objected on the grounds that it was irresponsible and dangerous behaviour and that children could try to replicate the scene.
The advertisers stated that the advertising was intended as a brand communication piece for Three. They said that the premise of the advertisement reflected the reality that work commitments can occasionally get in the way of some event attendances. They said that they had set out to depict a mother at work who was not present with her daughter who was attending a friend’s birthday party with another adult. The mother and child are physically separated but because of the everyday magic of telecommunications, the distance was virtually eradicated and they feel ‘together’.
They said that the beginning of the advertisement clearly showed the mother and child in different locations, the mother in an indoor office setting and the child outdoors at a party. They described the office setting as ordinary, pedestrian and normal, and the party as more colourful and bright. They described the opening of the advertisement as the mother and child shown on a video call, initiated by another adult. The child is shown running towards a bouncy castle which they said was moderate in size and would be a very common feature to see at children’s parties. They said that the two worlds of the office and the party come together in a clearly fantastical manner as an analogy for the connection that is made possible through their network. They said that this started off with the mother bouncing backwards and the appearance of her daughter jumping mid-air in her office. They said that as this continued there were clear signposts that this was a fantastical world, lights came on whenever they pass, multi-coloured paper, not associated with a work place, magically ejected from everywhere, gravity was clearly turned on its head as mother, daughter and paper floated upwards in an atrium. They said that alongside this, you also see the impossible as mother and daughter, already established as being in two different locations, bounce together in an office environment where it would be physically impossible to do so. They said that reality was clearly re-established when the daughter is shown at the party and the mother was again by herself on the phone in the everyday, ordinary office. They believed that there was a clear demarcation between the real and fantastical, imaginary world and it was clear that the events which happened when the child and mother were jumping together were imagined.
They referred to the fact that there were three different versions airing on different television channels viewable in Ireland, including RTE, Virgin Media and UK stations that air Irish advertising, and that each advertisement had been adapted depending on the recommendations set out by each broadcaster.
In regards to the complainants’ assertions, they did not agree that the advertisement was irresponsible as the real life scenes and the fantastical scenes were very clearly defined. They said that the child’s use of the smartphone and communication with the mother were initiated and supervised by another adult. They said that the advertisement was not aimed at children and they did not believe that there were in breach of the Code. They said that the child, in the real life scenes, uses a bouncy castle of a moderate size and this section of the advertisement had not portrayed the child in a dangerous or unsafe situation or had encouraged children to engage in dangerous activities. They considered that the advertisement had clearly shown the separation from real life and the fantastical scenario at the point when the mother and child both come together.
In regards to Sections 7.4 (c) and 7.4 (f) of the Code, they said that another adult was present at the birthday party and had video phoned the mother and was therefore clearly present and supervising the child before the child entered the bouncing castle. They said that the same adult’s voice was also featured at the end of the advertisement which they considered indicated that they were still present with the child at the end of the advertisement.
Finally the advertisers referred to Section 7.1 of the Code, where they noted that it was acknowledged that parents and guardians had primary responsibility for children. They said that children’s use of play equipment such as bouncy castles or technology such as smartphones, devices and tablets in general was a matter for parental discretion, decision and adult supervision.
Complaints Upheld In Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 - Upheld:
In relation to the use of the mobile phone while on the bouncy castle, while the Committee accepted that the child was under adult supervision, the adult had not been shown as the child ran towards the bouncy castle with the phone. The Committee considered that the holding of a hard object, including a mobile phone, while on a bouncy castle had the potential to cause injury, for example through falling or being struck by the object, and therefore no such object should be shown in the bouncy castle. In the circumstances the Committee considered that the depiction of the child in the bouncy castle with the mobile phone was in breach of Sections 3.24 (a) and 7.4 (c) and (h) of the Code.
Issue 2 – Not Upheld:
In relation to the scene where the mother and daughter jump over the balcony, the Committee noted the advertisers’ comments that the scenes with the mother and daughter bouncing together were fantastical. They considered that viewers would understand that people bouncing indoors was not realistic and that this, together with the fantastical elements, such as the lights coming on, portrayed the fantastical nature of the advertisement. The Committee also considered that the advertisement had shown that the mother and child were not in the same location from the start which reinforced the unrealistic aspect of the advertisement. In the light of this the Committee did not uphold the complaints on this aspect of the advertisement.
The advertisement featuring the child holding the mobile phone on the bouncy castle must not reappear in its current form. The Complaints Committee reminded the advertiser not to portray behaviour that could be seen as encouraging or condoning unsafe practices or dangerous behaviour in future advertising.
The advertisement that did not feature the child holding the mobile phone on the bouncy castle required no amendment.