Britain’s Channel 4 Aired a Live Ad of a Surgical Procedure, Shot From Inside a Human Body

Don't look away

Alongside Cancer Research U.K., MediaCom and 4 Sales, British TV network Channel 4 broadcast the first live commercial from inside a human body.

Over the course of 90 seconds, you can witness a colonoscopy in progress. That white thing is a polyp in a bowel. Not all polyps are cancerous, but some can turn Exorcist on you. By removing them, you can help prevent bowel cancer.

See how easy they are to remove? It doesn’t even hurt.

The footage might creep you out at first, but a calm bedside manner from Dr. Dolwani holds your hand all the way through. You even learn a few things, which demystifies the operation while highlighting its ease and painlessness—critical reassurance for people who may otherwise avoid checkups.

Titled “Live From the Inside” and created by Anomaly and Sassy Films, the ad aired on Jan. 18 around 3.25 p.m.

“Cancer Research U.K. aimed to show the positive impact research has had on helping to beat cancer,” Channel 4’s agency principal, Danny Peace, tells AdFreak. “Thanks to research, there are many things happening across the U.K. right now to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.”

Cancer Research U.K. receives no government funding and is entirely reliant on the kindness of strangers. Alongside the Channel 4 broadcast, it streamed the ad live on Facebook, where a cancer nurse was available to answer’ questions in real time.

“You are never sure how the public may react, but viewer comments have been generally very positive, suggesting it was attention grabbing and people were motivated to get checked out,” Peace reports. “This is exactly the response we were hoping for.”

The operation took place at Cardiff and Vale University, and was filmed by attaching a camera to a colonoscope. The patient was 60-year-old Philip McSparron, who underwent the colonoscopy after a routine bowel cancer screening found hidden traces of blood in his stool.

McSparron’s own brother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010. (Luckily, it was caught early.) So Ed Aspel, executive director of fundraising and marketing at Cancer Research U.K., sees this broadcast as an opportunity and a warning: “Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, so it’s important to break down barriers, encourage conversation and show the progress being made in beating cancer.”

This is the first time this procedure has been performed live in an ad break. It’s part of Cancer Research U.K.’s “Right Now” campaign, which highlights the day-to-day reality of those affected by cancer.

“It’s our ambition to speed up progress so that within the next 20 years, three in four people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years,” adds Aspel.

It helps that this isn’t Channel 4’s first sponsored live-broadcast rodeo. A month ago, the network aired a live ad of a man performing a “Leap of Faith”—a 100-foot freefall at over 50 miles per hour—for the film Assassin’s Creed.

“On any occasion where you are filming live or doing something for the first time, there will be challenges and bumps in the road,” says Peace. “At C4, we’re committed to taking creative risks, and this project has been a great example of the teamwork required. The overriding concern was for the patient’s well-being, aligning our broadcast with the operation schedule, and ultimately not getting in the way!”