OPINION: BEALE ON ... FIRE SAFETY

You might by now be familiar with the story of Frank, the deceased goldfish of Trevor Beattie and thwarted star of the current McCain chips ad. Unfortunately, the advertising militia ruled that the goldfish bowl in which poor, dead Frank was to be floated for McCain's "chin up" campaign represented irresponsible treatment of (dead) animals for commercial gain. Not enough surface area for oxygen apparently. Not that floating Frank had any need of oxygen.

Ah well, at least Beattie and McCain got some PR out of it; most of page three of the Daily Telegraph, in fact - evidence of that paper's troubling identity crisis as it tries to chase younger readers. And McCain got an ad with an empty goldfish bowl. Frank got a toilet bowl.

But Frank's story spotlights the stringent double standards that exist between what we're allowed to see as viewers of ads and what is considered suitable viewing in the programmes either side of the commercial break.

Mindless violence is acceptable in one, a dead goldfish in a bowl is not acceptable in the other.

There is some obvious logic for the discrepancy, though. It's hard to create a mitigating editorial context in a 30-second ad. And it seems somehow morally questionable to wring people's emotions to sell them a car (remember Rover's "hostage" ad?) or, indeed, a plate of chips.

This dissonance between adworld and TV programme land is what gives the Government's latest fire safety campaign its punch.

From the start of the ad we are in that whimsical, breezily cheery world that provides the backdrop for so much advertising mulch. We see mum forgetting to put the rubbish out before the bin men arrive, ditsy dad buying flowers from a petrol station late on Mother's Day, a forgotten umbrella in the rain.

In the final frames, dad is sitting in his car outside his burnt-out house, on his own. By forgetting to check the batteries in his fire alarm ... well, the final message is pretty clear. "Push the button, not your luck," is the slightly clunky and confusing endline, but the sentiment rings loud. There are over 50,000 fires in British homes each year, nearly 140 a day. So this is an ad that needs to touch us all. It works, at the basic level, by first luring the viewer into the cosy cliche-riddled world of most ads; we simply succumb to the rosy hue we're used to seeing between our dramas. And we sink into this whimsy, safe in the knowledge (thank you, BACC) that we're not about to be assaulted by images of rape, pillage or cruelty to goldfish. So the impact of the ad's final frames is so much the greater.

The problem with the ad is that the first 25 seconds or so are just a little bit too banal, too familiar and simply not engaging enough to guarantee the viewer will pay attention right through to the shocking denouement.

The remote control looks pretty inviting well before you're halfway through.

After all, for most of its 30-seconds, this is exactly (and for the end frames to work, needs to be) the sort of ad we've all seen thousands of times before.

It's a bit of a gamble, expecting zap-happy viewers to stick with it.

Which is why this is definitely an ad that needs to be seen several times, a challenge given the £2 million budget supporting this burst. The media agency Carat is planning for viewers to see the ad an average of three times, with 50 per cent cover and a second drive at the end of the year.

I defy anyone who has seen this ad a couple of times to not get off their arses and check their smoke alarms. Might be a good idea to give the goldfish bowl a once over while you're at it.

Dead cert for a Pencil? This ad has more important things to concentrate

on.

File under ... S for shopping list ... must buy batteries.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Don't we employ someone to push our

buttons?"

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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).