Channel 4 is to broadcast an innovative type of “primetime ad break takeover” during this evening’s episode of Gogglebox.  Its aim is to highlight the appalling hate speech that often appears in social media in response to broadcast ads, in particular ads that are setting out to be inclusive in terms of depicting people with disabilities, those in same-sex relationships, or from a minority racial background.  The ad can be viewed here, together with comments from C4 and its advertising partners (Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain):

This is an admirable initiative, confronting head-on the way in which online abusers target participants in such ads, and challenging the way in which hate speech seems to be accepted by some on social media in a way that would never be regarded as acceptable face-to-face.

Clearly the ASA is responsible for regulating advertising itself, not for policing hate-speech appearing in social media in response to ads.  But ads that aim to be inclusive or challenge stereotypes have in the past sometimes received large numbers of complaints to the ASA.  As Guy Parker explained in a blog post last year, complaints based upon “harm and offence” can involve judgement calls, but during 2016 for example “the ads that attracted the highest number of complaints weren’t the ones that needed banning.”  

We support the ASA in ensuring that there is space for well-considered inclusivity in broadcast advertising, and congratulate C4 and its partners in this evening’s initiative against online hate speech.