25 Jan 2009

Action for Children Rotten Campaign

I had a reply from Gary Day of Action for Children to my letter of complaint regarding their campaign:
"Thank you for your recent e-mail concerning our current advertising
campaign. I am sorry that the current 'Dan' TV advert has upset you this
was never our intention.

Action for Children's new advert focuses on how we as a charity help to transform the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people. It is focussed on the real story of Dan who has autism. The advert is the second of three, which all take real and different stories from children and young people across our different areas of work.

As a charity we're committed to giving vulnerable children and young people a voice about issues that affect them-and this approach was central to the way we designed and produced the ads, and why we feature real voices and real experiences and are highlighting the story of a child suffering with autism.

Dan tells his own story in his own words, and he chose to name his condition, the drawings that you see were also drawn by Dan, the pictures depict how he saw himself before we as a charity got involved and helped Dan and his family.

Of course we would not intend to cause any distress to anyone who has autism or parents who care for a child with it and hope instead that people will understand that there are organisations like us who are there to give support to parents and children who have the condition, should they need it.

We also hope that through raising the profile of children who have autism and those who look after them, we can help to give a voice to those who are in this situation.

If you would like to complain about our advertisements then you can do this by contacting the Advertising Standards Authority at www.asa.org.uk. They will look in to your complaint and if your concerns are upheld then we will be instructed to change or remove the advert.

Once again I can only apologise for causing you upset and hope I have been able to explain why we are currently airing this advert on TV in its current form.

Yours sincerely

Gary Day
Head of Supporter Care"

I don't think this even approaches a reasonable defence of this revolting advertisement and campaign. I didn't write because I'm upset or offended. It does matter that you will cause distress to autistic people. If you care about that, then do the decent thing and remove the advertisement. Have a look at what Bev has done with the illustrations on her blog.

Though I hope Dan benefited financially as much as ad agency Baby Creative, and "director Dan Sumich, who worked on the David Beckham "Impossible is Nothing" ad campaign for Adidas" that the ad tells his story makes it no less objectionable and disturbing.

Dan's story is tragic. He's blaming himself for the problems he faces and has been taught to regard his autism as a monster to be defeated and that he would be better off acting as non-autistic as possible.

You have portrayed a dangerous and damaging view of autism. This ad will hurt vulnerable young autistic people. It will also reinforce the prejudice that already exists in wider society against autistic people.

The only way you can make this right is the cancel the ad and the web campaign in their current forms. Next time you want to use the problems of autistic children to sell your charity, please seek out the superior knowledge of autistic self-advocate organisations and mainstream autism charities like the NAS.

The Guardian has an article on this campaign:
"Our values of passion, hope and equality continue throughout this campaign," said Polly Neate, executive director of public affairs and communications at AFC. "We deliberately avoid the more traditional charity methods of playing on guilt or shock. In all our work and now our advertising, the focus is on positive outcomes for the most vulnerable children."
How can Polly Neate think the autism ad is not playing on guilt or shock? Hasn't she watched it yet?

I have started a Facebook group called Let's Stop "Action for Children" demonising autistic children. Please join and invite your friends.

We managed to get rid of the NYU "ransom notes" advertisements. We can do it here too if we work together.

Blog posts on the campaign:
Please leave a comment if there are any others.


Casdok said...

Good to see the blogging world and face book working together.

I too got exactly the same reply from Gary Day. So will certainly be be contacting the ASA - and anyone else.

Socrates said...

On the Action for Children's (AfC) Blog, one of their staff, Tom McLaren Webb writes:

Have a look at the ad before you see it on TV. It’s lovely!


Socrates said...

Well, you said if there was any other blogs talking about it...

Sharon McDaid said...

@Casdok, these are great tools for spreading information. I'm still thinking about how best to approach the ASA as well as what else we can do.

@Socrates, thanks for that. It's almost as amazing that anyone would describe this ad as "lovely" as it is that Polly Neate thinks it avoids "playing on guilt or shock."

Socrates said...

The owners of the Baby Creative ad agency who made the video are at





Please feel free to write and explain our reservations.

Ari Ne'eman said...


Nick McGivney said...

Sound. Keep pushing. You'll find some give when you don't expect to. Yet again I commend your energy.

Anonymous said...

Action For Children look like they're out to offend anyone with disabilities check out


Sharon McDaid said...

@Nick, we can't let them think it's OK to put this stuff out and give such pathetic excuses for it.

@d@ve thanks for the link, I've left a comment.

Socrates said...

New Dan video here