If there had to be one Internet pastime to define this decade, it would regrettably have to be trolling. A venomous byproduct of social media, it’s something many will have faced in some form – whether famous or not.
As one of the more progressive mainstream TV broadcasters, Channel 4 and its presenters have been subject to their fair share of trolling and criticism over the years. But rather than shy away from this, Channel 4’s defiant new spot, created by in-house team 4Creative, sees presenters repeat some of the shocking complaints made about them by viewers.
The ad is based on genuine public complaints received by the broadcaster, and opens with Hollyoaks actor Kieron Richardson saying “I’m not homophobic, but…” (a classic precursor to offensive or questionable statements).
Other personalities featured in the ad include Big Narstie, who is supposedly “too black”, Kevin McCloud (“too posh”) and Katherine Ryan (“too much botox”). Elsewhere, Rachel Riley flouts her “inappropriate” wardrobe choices, Sharon Horgan recalls the theory that “women aren’t funny”, and Grayson Perry impersonates one critic, who decided that “it wouldn’t be so bad if he tried to make himself look like a normal woman!”
It’s not the first time the broadcaster has delved into a catalogue of complaints to incite positive change. Last year, Channel 4 ran an ad break takeover that merged previously-aired ad campaigns by Maltesers, Nationwide and McCain with some of the public’s malicious remarks posted to social media when they first saw them.
Where last year’s initiative made an impact through the storytelling, this time Channel 4 has taken a more uplifting, defiant approach by having the biggest figures associated with the broadcaster acknowledge that they’re no less susceptible to abuse for being “different”.
Channel 4 has long positioned itself as a channel that embraces diversity (though it has attracted criticism over its trailers for The Undateables and Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, as well as its Superhumans ads for the Paralympics), and its latest ad is no exception.
The film aims to highlight the range of voices that viewers can find on 4 while also calling people out for their comments. Ian Katz, Director of Programming at Channel 4, says the ad “celebrates one of the things at the heart of Channel 4’s identity: challenging the way our viewers think about the world.”
“When there isn’t someone complaining about one of our shows we should be worried,” he says.
ECD: Alice Tonge
Creatives: Eoin McLaughlin, Caio Turbiani, Raminder Sumra
Director: Alex Boutell
Head of Production: Clare Brown