By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

September 6, 2018 | 4 min read

Channel 4 has shone a spotlight on the hateful language directed at black, disabled and gay people starring in adverts in a harrowing film which ran during the return of hit show, Gogglebox.

Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain partnered for the campaign, having already ran ads starring diverse people on Channel 4.

While these efforts were widely acclaimed over the last two years, Channel 4 gathered some of the toxic responses to each ad to underline that work needs to done in tackling hate. It hopes to show the importance of breaking away from homogeneity in advertising too.

As well as a harrowing retelling of the abuse directed at the real people in the ads, Channel 4 included a call-to-action for people to visit the following website for more information.

It also looked to drum up a conversation on the hashtag #TogetherAgainstHate – although that may have inspired more of the hateful language each ad inspired in the first place.

Visually, the brands' three ads were augmented with cracks and distortions to show how hate speech can cause harm to real people.

4Sales dealt with Nationwide agency Wavemaker, Maltersers’ representatives Zenith and Mediacom and McCain's agency PHD to bring the spot to life.

4Sales’ creative arm PL4Y and The Outfit produced the work. Wavemaker developed an additional influencer campaign the evening the TV ad ran to further highlight the issue.

Matt Salmon, Channel 4 head of agency and client sales, said: “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.”

Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer, admitted: “It’s time that we stand up to hate,” she added: “It will highlight a growing societal problem where an increasing number of people appear to believe that posting hate speech and threats online is acceptable. Adverts 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.”

Kerry Cavanaugh, marketing director UK at Mars Wrigley Confectionery outlined that Channel 4 and its partners “are committed to using the power of our brands to challenge stereotyping and misrepresentation in advertising.” The Maltesers ad in question won the broadcaster’s Diversity in Advertising Award in 2016. She added it is an ad the brand is “still immensely proud of”.

Mark Hodge, UK marketing director at McCain said: “It’s sad that a minority still refuse to accept that the make-up of families has evolved and this evolution is something to be celebrated. As such, we fully support Channel 4’s decision to highlight the problem of online hate speech and take a stand against this inexcusable behaviour.”

In particular, abuse was directed at Samantha Renke, actress and disability campaigner who starred in the featured Maltesers ad. She said she was originally “shocked and upset by the comments,” she added. “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.”

Notably, she concluded that she has never had anyone come up to her and say horrible things to her face, raising a question about the power dynamics social media affords.

The broadcaster operates an annual Diversity Fund to attract and encourage brands to run TV ads that explicitly address diversity. Winners are granted a prize of £1m free airtime.

Maltesers and AMV BBDO won the first competition in 2016 with an irreverent, comic slant on disability, while Lloyds and Adam&Eve/DDB’s exploration of the different types of mental health issues took the prize in 2017.

This time around, the broadcaster is focusing on the portrayal of women in advertising, in light of the #MeToo movement's rise in the media.

Advertising Diversity & Inclusion

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Channel 4

Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster that began transmission on 2 November 1982. 

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