Climate Change Advert

Drowning in a sea of complaints

22nd October

Updated: Debate Heats Up...

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UK Government climate change advert receives 200 complaints

The advertising censor ASA has received more than 200 complaints that the government's latest TV campaign on climate change is misleading.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change  (DECC) launched the £6m campaign, in which the government throws its weight behind the scientific evidence that climate change is man-made and will affect us all.

DECC said it has taken the stronger approach because research has shown that more than half of the UK public think climate change will have no effect on them.

However, over the past week the Advertising Standards Authority has received 202 complaints about the campaign.

Some have argued that there is no scientific evidence of climate change; others claim there is a division of scientific opinion on this issue and therefore the ad should not have attributed global warming to human activity.

Another complaint was that the ad, which features a father telling his daughter a scary bedtime story about climate change, is inappropriate to be seen by children because it is upsetting and scaremongering .

The ASA is assessing the complaints and will make a decision on whether to launch an investigation in due course.

Update: Drowning in a Sea of Complaints

22nd October 2009. Based on article from

The ASA, the Advertising censor, is to consider the Government climate change TV advert which featured a drowning puppy and rabbits dying of thirst.

The ASA said the advert had prompted more than 350 complaints and that it would now be launching an investigation.

It will now look into claims that the film should not have been shown before the 9pm watershed because children would have been watching. The censor will also examine whether the advert would have been distressing for youngsters and whether it constituted scaremongering .

Others have also complained that the advert which is part of a £6million campaign had presented human caused climate change as fact and challenged the statistics used. Critics also suggested that the content was political and accused it of being propaganda.

The investigation is expected to last for two to three months before a ruling is made.


18th March

Update: Heated Debate...

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ASA dismisses complaints about drowning puppy climate change advert

A TV ad for the Government's Act On CO2 campaign showed a young girl being read a bedtime story by her father. Gentle, sorrowful music played throughout. The voice-over stated There was once a land where the weather was very very strange. There were awful heat waves in some parts and in others terrible storms and floods. Images in the storybook showed a cartoon horse, pig, sheep and other animals staring in dismay at a dried up river bed and a cartoon rabbit crying at the sight of it. The voice-over continued Scientists said it was being caused by too much CO2, which went up into the sky when the grown-ups used energy. The storybook showed black smoke rising up from an urban scene, from cars on the road and people's houses, and forming a cloud of CO2 in the shape of a monster in the sky. The camera panned to the father and daughter reading the story together. The voice-over continued They said the CO2 was getting dangerous, its effects were happening faster than they had thought. Some places could even disappear under the sea and it was the children of the land who would have to live with the horrible consequences. The storybook showed a flooded town with people clinging to the roofs of buildings and cars in the rain and a cartoon cat floating on an upturned table and a dog sinking under the water. The voice-over continued The grown-ups realised they had to do something. They discovered that over 40% of the CO2 was coming from ordinary every day things like keeping houses warm and driving cars, which meant if they made less CO2 maybe they could save the land for the children. A child in the picture book switched off a light in her house. The little girl turned to her father and asked Is there a happy ending? A voice-over stated It's up to us how the story ends. See what you can do. Search online for Act on CO2 .

Many viewers complained that (amongst other more political issues) that

  • the theme and content of the ad, for example the dog drowning in the storybook and the depiction of the young girl to whom the story was being read, could be distressing for children who saw it
  • the ad should not have been shown when children were likely to be watching television;

ASA Assessment: Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that some complainants were concerned that their children or grandchildren had been upset or worried by the ad. However, we also noted the ad had been given an ex-kids restriction by Clearcast, which meant that it should not be broadcast in or around programmes specifically made for children and should, as a consequence, avoid younger children watching television on their own.

We acknowledged that the subject of climate change was routinely taught in schools and was already a matter of public discussion amongst all age groups, and considered that the animated storybook imagery in the ad was likely to indicate to adults and children alike that this was a narrative about what could happen rather than what would happen.

We considered that, whilst the ad might be alarming for some young people who saw it, the storybook presentation, which featured line-drawn animals and showed the story being read by an adult, was likely to ameliorate that.

We concluded that, when shown in the context of the timing restriction applied by Clearcast, the ad was unlikely to cause harm or undue distress to children.


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