Child swallowed coins after copying GoCompare's cash-eating monster

Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 09:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 09:53 am

A Go Compare TV ad featuring a cash-eating monster has been banned from being shown before 7.30pm when a four-year-old swallowed coins after watching it.

The ad featured a woman being shocked to find a small animated monster called Bill eating the cash from her neighbour’s purse.

The neighbour explained that the monster was her home insurance bill, to which the woman dramatically exclaimed: “It’s eating all your money!”

A parent, who said their four-year-old child had swallowed coins after watching the ad, complained to watchdogs that it could encourage younger children to copy the monster.

Go Compare said the ad was intended to depict the "annoyance" of a home insurance renewal notice in a "comedic and fantastical manner".

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found the ad to be in breach of rules regarding scheduling, and ordered that it shouldn't be shown again before 7.30pm.

'Make-believe'

Go Compare claimed 'Monster Bill' was "intentionally humorous and cartoon-like".

The insurance firm said that both children and adults would understand that the character was "make-believe" and that the ad was intended to be "comical and fantastical in nature".

Go Compare bosses said young children often placed objects in their mouths, but it was "very unlikely" that their ad would directly or indirectly influence a child to undertake that action.

The firm said that while there was "clearly a difference" between swallowing coins and the fictional activity undertaken by Monster Bill of eating fake paper ‘vouchers’, they were concerned by the parent’s experience.

Go Compare said it would apply a restriction which would mean that the ad would not be transmitted in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children under 16.

Early-evening ban

An ASA spokesman said: "We considered that older children would understand that the scene depicted in the ad was surreal because of the fantastical scenario and the contrast of the cartoon-style Monster Bill character and the real-life actors.

"However, while we noted the ad did not feature children and agreed with GoCompare that the ad was not targeted at children, we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might identify with the playful child-like character.

"We were concerned, therefore, that the ad might encourage young children to attempt to swallow money themselves, which was a dangerous practice to emulate.

"As such, while we acknowledged that the ad was suitable for older children, there was a risk that the ad would cause harm to younger children.

"We concluded that, to minimise the risk of younger children seeing it, the ad should have been given a 7.30pm timing restriction."

He added: "The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form before 7.30pm."