UK biscuit brand McVitie’s commercial starring a menagerie of fluffy animals has been a runaway Christmas advertising hit, causing a nation to collectively “aww.”
But the ad has incurred the wrath of animal lovers.
McVitie’s Facebook pages and the comments under the YouTube video have been flooded with people accusing the brand of being irresponsible for featuring cute animals at a time of year when many pets are bought, only to be discarded once the festive cheer wears off and people realise they have to actually look after the things.
Here are some of the complaints on McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes brand page:
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has also received 44 complaints about the ad. That might seem like a small number, but it only takes one complaint for the ad watchdog to launch an investigation and potentially ban the ad (however, those investigations are often a lengthy process and often an adjudication occurs after the ad campaign has run its course anyway.) The ASA told Business Insider: “We are carefully assessing the complaints to establish if there are grounds for further action.”
Some of the complaints raised also expressed concern about a section of the ad that featured a rabbit lying on its back, which the complainants believe cause the animal distress. As a result of those complaints, McVitie’s edited ad on Friday, removing that scene from both the TV and online version.
Indeed, “abby.mercer,” who commented on Business Insider’s article about the ad wrote: “Rabbits laying like that are experiencing tonic immobility, a last ditch survival instinct which is an attempt to play dead in the hope that the predator will release them. It causes rapid changes in heart rate and increased stress.”
She later went on to encourage people to complaint to the ASA, flood McVitie’s #sweeetChristmas hashtag and tell the brand they disagreed with the use of animals in the ad on its Facebook page.
United Biscuits, owner of McVitie’s, has published this statement on its website:
“We can confirm that no animals were harmed in the making of the McVitie’s Victoria Christmas ad. We had a professional vet and handlers on set overseeing all the filming to ensure the welfare of the animals was our top priority. The professionals on set have confirmed that in their opinion the rabbit filmed was absolutely not in a state of tonic immobility or “trancing”; the camera angles used in the filming are clearly misleading. However, we understand that the ad could mislead people into thinking that putting a rabbit on its back is recommended, when this is not the case. We have therefore taken the decision to remove this scene in the ad as soon as we can. We’d like to thank anyone who raised this issue with us and would like to remind the public that they should follow professional advice as to how to best handle animals in specific circumstances including from The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund — www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk.”
Here’s the edited ad in full:
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