Child Abandonment Featured in Yet Another Ad

By Matt Van Hoven 

Last Friday we showed you a rather striking Ovaltine ad (which we’re still pretty sure isn’t “real”) that features a little boy whose family abandons him because he drank all the Ovaltine. Hilarious. Today we bring you an Australian anti-smoking spot that oddly uses a similar storyline to grab attention. And woodinchano the whole inter Web is alive with fervor about it.

We see a boy, hand in hand with (presumably) his mother, walking through a crowded train station. After a moment we realize his mother has slipped away; she no longer standing next to him. Tear. When tiny-dude begins crying we start to get this sad feeling because oh no, mom has abandoned him (though the ad implies she was gone for just a minute). Just then the voiceover chimes in, “If this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, just imagine if they lost you for life.” Aaaaaaaaand scene.


The problem some folks are having with this one is that the kid is crying real tears. How do we know they’re real? Edwina Pearce, mouthpiece for the child-hating Cancer Council Victoria, which produced the ad, said so. Bla bla the people walking around were actors and like, everyone was watching the kid so he wouldn’t get kidnapped. But was their motive to tell a story of a child whose mother abandoned him or to show you what happens when they pull mom away for a second? Are we supposed to know that mom didn’t really abandon him?

OK so they’re not kiddie-haters. On the contrary, they want kids’ parents to live long, smoke free lives. And since that’s the goal, Pearce went said the ends (tons of people calling the help line to quit smoking) justify the means (crying kid who thinks his mommy left him). Meh. One news source made a particularly dramatic fare of the whole thing, stating in a lead, “The boy is seen in a distressed state for more than 15 seconds.”

Oh no, not 15 seconds! We’ll spare you the whole “this is ridiculous” argument, because although 15 seconds of crying child might cross a boundary, the whole thing is over anyway and apparently people are calling the quit-line. So there’s that, and since it can’t be undone and kids don’t really remember things til they’re like, five (this kid was 3.5 at the time) maybe it’s not such a big deal that little Alex will have some abandonment issues when he’s an adult. Aside from the awkwardness after his first sexual encounter (and maybe subsequent instances), he’ll probably be fine. There are starving children in Africa, people!

The whole but-think-of-the-children meme is being played out in New York’s “don’t smoke even though it’s the best thing, ever” campaign. It’s called “NY Quits” and takes the same tone as the Cancer Council Victoria did, via posters of little family units where one of the parents had been obviously cut out of the image because they died from indulging in the best thing, ever. And, say some of our readers, the above piece is running here too, with American sounding vo.

The lesson here is that you can’t win. If you over-do it, you get yelled at. If you under-do it you look like a wimp. So at the end of the day we say just go all out. Be ballsy. Take the risk. Yeah maybe a bunch of mommy-bloggers will get all up in your knickers and sure it might be a hellish fiasco but PR is someone else’s problem. And if your client is trying to save people’s lives they will probably thank you for getting them the attention, good or bad.

Gawker via NY Daily News

More: “Child Cruelty at the Hands of Ovaltine. Please.