Gillette has been ordered to pull its latest TV ad campaign for Right Guard deodorant after a “significant number” of viewers complained that it reminded them of the September 11 disaster.

The execution, which shows an office worker fleeing a building as it is demolished around him, received 159 complaints from the TV-watching public who found a scene showing the man running down a dust-filled stairwell particularly disturbing.

The timing was also felt to be inappropriate as screening occurred close to the disaster’s second anniversary.

Gillette’s advertising company removed the stairwell scene and amended the commercial to emphasise that the main character was taking part in a game. It also took the ad off air on September 7.

The Independent Television Commission accepted that the similarities were unintentional but said it could not ignore the fact that viewers had made a clear link between the two. It also received further complaints after the amended version was shown and concluded that the overall theme caused offence.

No-one from Gillette was available for comment.

Julian Walford, MD of brand development consultant Large, Smith, Walford, said brand owners were now treading a delicate line when it came to chosing advertising themes. “We have become de-sensitised to images of violence on TV but when they are related to commercial products, it becomes more complicated on a psychological level.”

Walford also questioned whether some advertising portrayed the right image for the brand. “People ultimately tend to be drawn to brands with which they find a connection,” he said.
Mary Carmichael