Advertising watchdog ASA has revealed that it will be ‘assessing’ the NHS charity Christmas advert after receiving over 200 complaints.
The advert – which was meant to celebrate and pay a tribute to the NHS staff who worked on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic – has been criticised by viewers online.
Some branded the festive ad ‘disturbing’ and ‘insensitive’, while others claim it will ‘scare children’, although the charity has stated it is not aimed at youngsters.
A spokesperson for ASA confirmed to Metro.co.uk that they received 220 complaints and that they are ‘currently assessing it to establish if there are grounds for any further action’.
They explained that the complaints were based on ‘the ad upsetting children as it portrays Santa very ill in hospital’.
The spokesperson went on to clarify that the commercial was not broadcast on television, it was posted to the NHS Charities Together website and their social media accounts.
The ad, titled The Gift, was released by NHS Charities Together and begins by showing an old bearded man being rushed into hospital as doctors and nurses try to revive him.
The man can then be seen waking up with oxygen tubes attached to his face as a masked nurse asks him: ‘How you feeling?’.
The short advert shows the man’s slow recovery, with the help of the nurse, as he begins to walk and eat again.
He even receives a Get Well Soon card from his head reindeer Rudy as he goes through the naughty and nice list.
Later on in the clip, the man, who has been nursed back to full health, is revealed to be Santa Claus.
After leaving the hospital and waving goodbye to the medics who helped to save him, the advert ends with the nurse receiving a present which read: ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for all of us, Santa.’
NHS Charities Together has since released a statement defending its festive ad, where they explained children weren’t the intended audience for the commercial.
‘We created our Christmas campaign to highlight the ongoing commitment and hard work of NHS staff and volunteers to keep us safe and well in what has been and continues to be a really challenging time for the NHS,’ they said in a statement.
‘We are really grateful that through the support of our partners we were able to create a film to get that point across, and to encourage people to keep supporting NHS staff, patients and volunteers by generating donations to our appeal.
‘When we launched the ad earlier in the week, we had an overwhelmingly positive response to it. Some subsequent media coverage of it has generated criticism of the ad on social media and some people have expressed their concern about it upsetting children.’
The charity went on to apologise to the parents of the children the ad may have upset.
The statement continued: ‘The ad has been made to engage charity supporters and those who may want to buy products that generate donations to the appeal. It isn’t aimed at children and hasn’t been shown on TV. The charity did not put any funds into the production of the ad.
‘We worked closely with the team behind the ad to make sure it was produced responsibly and it was cleared for use by the relevant regulatory authority. However, we are sorry to the parents of any young children who have been upset by watching the ad and to the young children themselves, they were not the intended audience for it.’