Risk of razorblade emulation prompts Pilgrim’s Choice advert censure

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says that a Pilgrim’s Choice advert featuring a cowboy character with a razorblade poses a serious risk of emulation if seen by young children.

But although it agreed to only broadcast the advert after a 9pm threshold, brandowner Adams Foods (part of the €1.9bn turnover Irish Dairy Board) defended an advertising campaign in comments to DairyReporter.com, and a spokeswoman said the brand was “now worth an amazing ₤56m”.

The tongue-in-cheek advert in question features a miniature cowboy sitting on a kitchen counter​, wiping an oversized cut-throat razor on a tea towel (screen grab below) and boasting of a man with "expertises, in cheeses" ​who chose Pilgrim's Choice.

Pilgrim's Choice

While shaving himself he said ‘Easy there pilgrim’ to the woman, before exiting the room via the catflap and pointing an oversized gun at a cat. “Back off, Mr Wiggles,”​ he says.

The Adams Foods spokeswoman said: “Despite receiving a small number of complaints after the cowboy in the kitchen version of our advert was initially shown, the majority of feedback we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Kitchen knife similarity

However, 24 viewers claimed that the advert (in respect of the razorblade) was irresponsible and likely to cause harmful emulation among children, particularly because it was broadcast before 9pm.

Upholding the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it considered that younger children might find the cowboy figure “particularly intriguing”.

“Although we appreciated that the cowboy was using the razor to shave, we noted that the razor appeared very large and we considered that young children would not distinguish between the blade of a barbershop razor and the blades of common household objects, such as kitchen knives.

The ASA added: “We are therefore concerned that young children might mimic the cowboy’s actions using common household objects in a manner that could seriously endanger their health”

Despite Clearcast restrictions on broadcast times – during daytime programmes not targeted at children – a number of complainants had seen the ad when watching TV with their young children during the day, the ASA said.

Potential for ‘serious harm’

The ASA added that Clearcast (a company providing advertising compliance services to major broadcasters), restrictions that meant children who saw the ad were likely to be supervised by parents or a carer, but the ASA said that these controls were insufficient.

“Such was the potential for serious harm that would result from emulation by young children, we considered that the scheduling restriction was insufficient to minimize the risk of young children seeing the ad.

“We judged that the ad should have been given a 9pm timing restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at a time of day when younger children were likely to be watching.”

Adams Foods pointed to Nielsen data showing that Pilgrim’s Choice brand penetration was up from 13.1% to 21.%, equating to purchases by an extra 2.2m households in just 12 weeks, while two adverts had been a website and YouTube sensation.

These complaints only refer to that one execution and not to our lead execution of the cowboy in the supermarket which is particularly popular.

“As a family brand, we took all this feedback extremely seriously and proactively chose to move the kitchen execution to a post-9pm time slot to ensure younger viewers were not upset.”

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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