Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

Victorian Government abuses a child to save a smoker?

Happy to be told I’m making something out of nothing, but this video disturbs me.

It’s a television ad, currently airing in Victoria, Australia, as part of a Government anti-smoking campaign. Until the end you have no idea what it’s promoting, and frankly, it could have been anti-speeding, anti-unsafe-sex, anti-anything.

But my point is, there is no way this poor kid could have been acting. No, I have to assume he was made to think he was lost, and the camera crew was hidden from him. That’s pretty mean.

Is that overstepping some line? You decide.

From the official media release:

Quit Victoria’s Executive Director, Ms Fiona Sharkie said despite being devoid of graphic images of disease-ridden bodies the new campaign, airing from Sunday night, would still pack a huge emotional punch.

“This new campaign depicts very powerfully the personal and emotional impact that smoking-caused illnesses have on the lives of smokers’ families, particularly their children.”

Ms Sharkie says the campaign was developed in the context of data showing approximately 5% of the Victorian adult population have children 12 years or younger and are current smokers, which corresponds to approximately 211 273 smokers.

“This campaign may be confrontational but we don’t apologise for that. If we can get just one of those 211 273 smokers to quit and spare one young Victorian the grief of losing a parent to smoking then our job is done.”

(As a side note, you have to admit Pat Lennox and Ben Green are a powerhouse creative duo, over at Campaign Palace, having already come up with some cool stuff for the same client, but I digress…)

What do you think?


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  1. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    It certainly looks real – I really felt for the kid.

  2. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    I recently watched a YouTube video created by students who were doing a project on Fragile X Syndrome, an intellectual disability. To illustrate the teasing and nasty tricks played on a teenager with the syndrome, the video creators did exactly the same. I doubt the boy would have been able to distinguish between being ridiculed and laughed at for the sake of the video and it being real life. The point was obviously lost on many, as those who commented on the video made remarks about it being so funny! This for me was as upsetting as watching the video itself.

    With home videos being so popular I worry that mainstream ads like this will teach others it is OK to treat people in insensitive ways if they are trying to make a point.

  3. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    Our preacher in church tonight showed this video, to demonstrate something to do with emotional intensity, or something… but all I could think was that nothing was said about the kid, and how they got him to do that crying, etc…

  4. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    I once read that it’s VERY difficult to find child actors to play in horror films because the parents KNOW that a young child can’t distinguish between “reality” and “fiction”.

    I think you’re right on the money. There’s no WAY the kid is “acting” – and SHAME on the parents for allowing him to be abused like this.

    I’m sure it will win awards though.

  5. Christopher Clayton
    Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    i actualy have the tv on next to me and as i was reading this it came on AGAIN!
    its being played too much. first they play disgusting pictures now they are abusing kids?

    My moto is "Live and let Live"
    in other words, let peaple do what they want to do, aslong as their not hurting anyone.
    If peaple want to smoke let them, its not like im hurting them by smoking.

    These ads actualy make me smoke more, not less!

  6. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    @Christopher: as long as you pay for your own heath care AND I don't have to breath your 2nd hand smoke … go ahead. As for the commercial – I hate it! As the parent of a 3 yr old – I couldn't care less if you smoke or not – just help that kid! He could be mine.

  7. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    This blog was interesting.I really felt for a kid.And it is shame to their parents for allowing abused like this.It is not good to hear, children are acting in horror films.They are mentally disturbed.

  8. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    "there is no way this poor kid could have been acting."

    There is no way you can know that. I think it is highly likely that the kid WAS acting in this video. Some kids can actually act very well. (Some kids can act so well, they can completely and totally fool their parents whenever they like.)

  9. Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    I can't see the abuse in this commercial. In fact, it gives a very strong and truthful message. I saw a vision of something like this before I decided to quit smoking years before. My kids were 7, 5, and 3 years old. One day, they all cried when they saw me and my husband leaving the house. They were just afraid to be left alone with their new nanny but their crying hit me like a splash of cold water in the face. My young kids will surely look forlorn and lost when I and my husband really left without coming back. I started smoking at 15 and managed to quit at 28. My family is smoke-free for the past 23 years now.

  10. Joan Cross
    Posted 10 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    Yes, I agree that this is abuse if the child was not acting. I can't see any reason to inflict this distress on a child (and it is intense distress, I have been through that myself as a kid) when there must be plenty of other options for a hard-hitting advert about quitting smoking.

  11. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Child abuse is rampant these days

  12. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Indonesian Government also has serious campaign now for smoker. We have new rule. When we get caught smoking in public area, government will give us penalty and we can go to jail.

    As a smoker, i argue that good idea too. Even i am a smoker, but don't like to inhale the smoke.

  13. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Highly unethical in my view.

    Just the fact that we are unsure makes this type of advertising unacceptable. Whether or not the child is acting is irrelevant in my opinion. Making him act out this hurt is making him go through the pain. And who says the campaign is effective?

    In this case, the end does definitely not justify the means and I find it highly disturbing that this ad was initiated by the government.

    This is child abuse and it should be punished, not praised.

  14. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    hmmn, leaving the child just to smoke? or I am missing something. but the context of ad is there, but not the way how they abuse the kid's mind, the kid is not acting,

  15. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    It's not good to smoke at any stage.They should be punished as well…Most of the people will get attracted but its not good to use…..

  16. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    I would think that abusing a child would really not be put up with .
    was that the case? or was the kid just a good actor?
    the big question would be did the ad result in the goal being reached?

  17. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Some parents hit their kids to make it happen on purpose, for punishment. This ad wasn’t made to punish the child, let’s keep this in perspective.

    Kids cry all the time. My daughter has memories of her most traumatic accidents, but she recalls those moments with wide eyes and astonishment, to her they are great stories. The “abuse” in this ad is water off a ducks back for a generally happy and well-nurtured child.

    Without evidence to the contrary one should trust that the parents of the boy are doing the right thing by him. Before, during and after this scene was shot.

  18. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    As a parent, I feel for the child, However, I must agree with Sam Bauers. This ad was done to be able to save their parents and effectively quit smoking. Because what could a child be without his parents?

    I am pretty sure that this isn’t as traumatic as it could be for the child because the ad was shot in less than what? A few minutes? If it was abuse, how come people around him are not reacting?

    But thanks for sharing anyway. As always, I enjoy reading your blog.

  19. Posted 9 years, 6 months ago // Permalink

    And not just a normal child, but such a cute one.I saw the video.I feel bad for him.

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