For any Australian person that happened to turn on their TV in 2009, they may have been unfortunate enough to come across this particular commercial. It represents trauma, childhood trauma.
The commercial got the very real reaction of a child who’d been left by his mother at a train station. The producers couldn’t have predicted how genuine his reaction would be, it is only a minute long and the producers have said filming this only took a minute, but the child’s pain echo’d in the audience.
There was a global outcry, reaching all the way across the water to New York, asking the question. Did the campaign go too far?
The goal of the campaign was to lower the quantity of smoking in Australia. Obviously with an ad that was incredibly emotionally striking, they achieved their aim. However, the means of their achievement may have been ethically striking. The mother had given consent for her son to partake in the commercial, should that be enough?
Edwina Pearce, spokeswoman for the Cancer Council Victoria defended the campaign “We didn’t do anything dastardly to make him cry. He did get upset, but it was about a 10-second period that he was upset for and then his mother came back and gave him a big cuddle and everything was happy again.”
Campaigns aren’t this emotionally striking often, but there is a reason there hasn’t been many commercials similar to this. The public outcry in 2022 is harsh at the best of times, but involving children, being remotely questionable would be a surefire way to have your campaign tossed out of public favour.