Tech giant Apple has been forced to defend a recent television commercial (video below) for its Apple Watch, after the advertising watchdog received a complaint about a sleeping baby in the commercial.
The Advertising Standards Board dismissed the complaint but not before Apple was forced to explain why the ad does not contravene prevailing community standards or promote unsafe behaviour.
The ad in question, “Closer”, is a one of a series of clips promoting the smartwatch, each of which feature a montage of short sequences of people in everyday situations wearing the Apple Watch.
Scenes feature parents and other family members and in one short sequence, a father is seen lying on a couch with his young child lying on his chest.
A viewer complained to the Ad Standards Board this particular situation condoned unsafe behaviour.
“This is extremely dangerous and should not be encouraged as the baby can roll and be trapped between a person and the couch – babies have died due to this,” the complainant said.
But Apple defended the clip, telling the advertising watchdog the ad “does not make any representations condoning, endorsing or otherwise promoting any particular activities”.
“Rather it seeks only to depict everyday situations in which ordinary people may integrate the Apple Watch into their lives and in which the Apple Watch may assist and benefit through its functions, including its stopwatch/timer function, telecommunications function, alarm function and entertainment and gaming functions,” Apple said.
In reference to the images of the man lying on the couch with his young child, Apple said the clip itself only goes one to two seconds.
“During that one to two second clip, the viewer is clearly about to hear that the father is lying in front of a television that is switched on and can see, from the movement of the child, that the child is not asleep but is merely lying down on the father and that the father and child are not set up intentionally to sleep (and it is not necessarily the case that the father is even sleeping),” Apple said.
“If it also clear from the size of the child and the ease with which the child is able to adjust his position on the father that the child is not a baby … the child is actually a five-year-old, at which age a child would be able to move independently.”
While the complainant did not specifically mention concerns about “co-sleeping” of parents with their children or the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Apple did address these issues in its response.
Apple argued the ad does not in any way promote, encourage or condone “co-sleeping” and said there are numerous apps available from its App Stores for parents who wish to use their Apple Watch to help monitor their babies’ sleeping patterns and “enhance the safety of their babies”.
While the Ad Standards Board acknowledged there is “genuine community concern regarding baby and child safety, particularly in regard to sleeping”, it agreed with Apple that the ad does not suggest “parents and children should sleep like this regularly”.
“There is light coming into the room from a window and …the scenario is a depiction of a situation where the dad may have fallen asleep while watching television during the day and is not a planned sleep and it does not give the impression that this is the location or the position where the father and child regularly sleep,” the board said.
The board also agreed with Apple that the child in the ad is not a baby and “appears of an age that it would be able to alert the father to a problem if the child was in a position of harm”.
“Based on the above, the board determined that the advertisement did not depict material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety,” the board said.
Marketing expert Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany this morning brands should be aware there will always be consumers who complain simply because they can.
“It’s a version of trolling to a certain extent,” Gamble says.
“In all aspects of society there are people who are overzealous about certain things.”
Gamble says there is little businesses can do to avoid or mitigate these types of complaints that do not appear to relate to the product or service being advertised.
But she says Apple’s approach to responding to the complaint should win the brand some praise.
“It’s good to see,” she says.
“They have got an incredibly strong brand and they protect it fiercely.”
“They’ve done the right thing by responding and not ignoring it and it’s good to see the Ad Standards Board using some common sense.”
SmartCompany contacted Apple but did not receive a response prior to publication.
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