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John Lewis Home Insurance pulls destructive child ad as FCA probes misleading claims


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

October 27, 2021 | 4 min read

John Lewis Home Insurance has pulled an ad featuring a young boy in a dress leaving a trail of destruction during a frenzied bout of expression. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was considering reacting to more than 130 complaints about the spot, before the case was passed over to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which was probing allegations of misleading advertising.

john lewis ad

John Lewis Home Insurance has pulled its controversial ad

The ad, called ‘Let Life Happen’, created by long-time agency partner Adam&EveDDB, was at the center of multiple flare-ups on Twitter – although few got to the root of the issue that ultimately saw it taken down.

Dominating ASA complaints was a moral panic around the boy wearing a dress and his destructive tendencies. Rather than breaching any rules on that front, the FCA has been in discussions with John Lewis regarding its portrayal of scenes of wanton destruction that the insurer almost certainly wouldn’t pay out on, as The Drum previously pointed out.

In light of concerns the advertising was misleading, John Lewis had already made the point that the boy was not “willfully damaging his home and is unaware of the unintentional consequences of his actions.” Could a customer have made such an excuse? Today John Lewis pulled the ad, fearing the spot is potentially misleading.

“This advert has been withdrawn because the Financial Conduct Authority considers the content to be potentially misleading and could cause customers to be confused about John Lewis’s new home contents insurance offering. This was absolutely never our intention.”

It added that the goal was to show a young actor “carried away with his performance, oblivious of the unintentional consequences of his acquisitions.” Like many customers of the insurance industry, the ad seems to have been tripped up on a technicality – that it couldn’t convincingly argue that the damage shown in the ad was neither deliberate nor wilful.

As an step of good faith, the business has contacted those who signed up for home insurance during the broadcast window of the ad to explain the finer points before they too allow a child to run rampage through their homes.

Several years prior John Lewis Home Insurance ran an ad called ‘Tiny Dancer’ showing a young girl almost (but not quite) destroying a house during a passionate dance. It appears the addition of property damage has invalidated the spot.

The Drum has contacted Adam&EveDDB for its view on the takedown.

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