Giffgaff has apologised and pulled its Halloween campaign following complaints that its ad about an orphan girl was offensive and traumatising for vulnerable people.
The spot, created and directed by Partizan’s Matthias Hoene, depicts a girl being removed from a family of monsters and forced to live with humans. However, she is alienated by her "too perfect" surroundings and escapes back to her original monster guardians.
Campaign published a story about the ad yesterday and received several social media comments that criticised Giffgaff for being insensitive.
John Cutler, on behalf of the UK Adoptive Parent Support Group, told Campaign that the ad was "shocking" and warned it would "retraumatise society’s most vulnerable people" if it had been allowed to run on TV and in cinemas.
"This accurately depicts one of the most traumatic events that could happen to a child – forcible removal from a family that they love, but who are unable to provide a suitable environment or parenting, to strange and unfamiliar new parents," Cutler said.
"Children who are removed from [their] birth family often have a very complicated relationship with them – the love is real, as is the desire to get back to the familiar, even if they know that their life there was not safe or OK. This trauma affects children throughout their lives, causing mental-health and behavioural difficulties that stay with them into adulthood."
The full four-minute film launched online yesterday but was removed this morning. It was due to be followed by a 30-second TV spot that would launch tomorrow night (20 October) on ITV during Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows (Part 1), as well as content across Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Havas Group Media handled media planning and buying.
Abi Pearl Ward, Giffgaff's head of advertising, said: "We would like to say sorry. We made a mistake with our new Halloween campaign. It was never our intention to cause any offence to the adoption community, or anybody.
"However, we understand that, whether we meant to or not, we have. As a company that has a community at its heart, we believe in listening to people, so have taken the decision to stop running this ad."