Channel 4 teams up with trio of brands to cast light on the brutality of online abuse

Specially edited versions of ads for Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain will appear in an ad break takeover during tonight's Gogglebox on Channel 4 aimed at taking a stand against abusive online comments.

The three-and-a-half minute sequence, which airs at around 9.12pm, includes a Nationwide ad featuring performer SugarJ Poet, the Maltesers spot featuring actor and disability campaigner Samantha Renke, and McCain’s "We are family".

In each case, the ad begins normally, but cruel messages posted by real social media users start to pop up on the screen, leading the picture to break up.

Messages during the break will ask viewers why online abuse is not taken as seriously as face-to-face hate before being pointed to an online support page.

The collaboration was brokered by 4Sales, Wavemaker (for Nationwide), Zenith & MediaCom (Maltesers) and PHD (McCain). The idea was developed by 4Sales’ creative arm Pl4y and The Outfit, which also produced the work. The original ads were created by VCCP, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Adam & Eve/DDB respectively.

Matt Salmon, Channel 4 head of agency and client sales, said: "As social media has grown in popularity, so too has the environment in which more and more people feel it is acceptable to make vile, threatening and abusive comments.

"This unique brand collaboration highlights this important issue and demonstrates Channel 4’s commitment to championing diversity beyond our programmes whilst building on 4Sales’ industry leading reputation for delivering original and creative ad campaigns."

Writing in Campaign last year, Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer, discussed her fears that the marketing was turning a blind eye to hateful language.

Bennison said today: "Ads featuring people of different colours, backgrounds and perceived sexuality often appear to attract the most criticism and vitriol and we, like others, have experienced this first hand through our Voices Nationwide campaign.

"Of course, there is a line between what can be considered ‘banter’ and what is fundamentally crossing the line by attacking individuals. Free speech cannot extend to spreading hate. If it would be deemed unacceptable said face-to-face, why should it be allowed online? At the end of the day, abuse is abuse and that is never okay in our book."

Renke, who was subjected to abuse following her appearance in the 2016 Maltesers campaign, said: "When the adts launched, I was shocked and upset by the comments, however, I am not by any means naïve to the world of trolling or online bullying. Any minority or group with something to say is subject to online abuse.

"For me, I've never had people come up and say horrible things to my face, but the internet gives people anonymity. This Channel 4 initiative is sparking an important conversation and reminding us that we need to call out those who think it’s acceptable to hide behind a screen."

Lee Camozzi and Mat Samuels, who appeared in McCain’s ad, said: "For us, taking part in this campaign offers a chance to put a spotlight on issues around family diversity and acceptance. We were delighted to appear in the original McCain ad, as it’s rare to see advertising which represents our family dynamic, but it was awful to receive such horrible comments.

"Regardless, we remain proud to be part of an advertisement that celebrates families, whatever form they come in and we’re committed to highlighting the problem of online hate speech, alongside Channel 4."

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