Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain take a stand over online abuse

The brands have teamed up with Channel 4 to broadcast a primetime ad break takeover that aims to highlight the hateful and sometimes violent social media posts aimed at real people cast in their ads, with the hope it will get more people to think about the impact such comments can have.

Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain have teamed up to take a stand against the online abuse aimed at the stars of some of their most successful ad campaigns.

In partnership with Channel 4, they will broadcast a prime time TV ad break takeover in which a selection of real social media posts have been added to existing ads. The aim is to raise awareness of the scale of online abuse and encourage people to consider the impact such comments can have.

The takeover will be broadcast during the first episode of the new series of Gogglebox this evening (7 September) at around 9.12pm. It will raise the issue, share stats about the scale of online abuse and encourage people to continue the debate on social media using the hashtag #TogetherAgainstHate.

Channel 4 has also set up an online support page for anyone that has been affected by online abuse.

Speaking to Marketing Week, McCain’s UK marketing director Mark Hodge says the brand wanted to take part after being left “devastated” by the abuse aimed at Lee and Mat Samuels-Camozzi, who feature in the brand’s ‘We Are Family’ campaign with their son. He hopes that raising awareness of the issue can help drive positive change and encourage people to see that the evolution of family dynamics is “something to be celebrated”.

“As a big advertiser and popular family brand that regularly features in people’s mealtimes, we have a role to play in shining a spotlight on this issue and generating conversation in order to drive positive change,” he says.

“We are very grateful to Lee and Mat for featuring in our We Are Family campaign and their welfare is of paramount importance to us. However, we both believe that highlighting the behaviour of the small group of people who still feel a need to spread hate online will help us tackle this important issue.”

It’s time that we stand up to hate.

Sara Bennison, Nationwide

The campaign will amplify the abuse with the application of visual effects designed to replicate what it feels like to be on the receiving end of hate. In the Nationwide spot, for example, the screen is gradually filled with mould, while the Maltesers add features digital distortion and the McCain ad a cracked screen.

Nationwide’s CMO Sara Bennison says the takeover comes in response to a trend for ads featuring people of different colours, backgrounds and perceived sexuality to attract the most criticism and vitriol. And that while ‘banter’ and free speech must be allowed, too many comments are crossing the line and “spreading hate”.

“It’s time we stand up to hate, which is why we are delighted to be working on this ad break with Channel 4, Maltesers and McCain because it will highlight a growing societal problem where an increasing number of people appear to believe that posting hate speech and threats online is acceptable,” she adds.

The takeover was brokered by 4Sales and Wavemaker for Nationwide, Zenith and MediaCom for Maltesers and PHD for McCain. The idea came from a partnership between 4Sales’ creative arm PL4Y and The Outfit, which produced the work. Wavemaker will also be running a social campaign on the night with influencers talking about their personal experiences.

Marketing Week will be exploring the issue of online abuse and how brands should deal with it in an in-depth feature to be published next week.


Tanya Joseph, director of external affairs, Nationwide

Hateful comments and actual threats online are all too familiar. As individuals we all have different ways of coping with this growing societal problem – I know that I ignore, delete or self-censor depending on the issue and how strong I am feeling on any particular day.

But how do brands respond? Can they do anything? I think they can and they should. A quick poll of industry mates reveals that above-the-line activity featuring women, people of different colours, backgrounds and sexuality – basically anyone who is “different” – attracts the most criticism and vitriol. It is our work, our talent, our people who are the target of abuse.

This isn’t about wanting to ban banter, and I am not talking about consumer anger about poor service or products. As brands we should be big enough to take and deal with that sort of criticism. No, I am talking about deeply offensive sexist, racist, bigoted and often violent abuse aimed at people who appear in our advertising. Personally, I believe we have a duty of care to our people to say we won’t stand for it. After all, if we saw someone being abused in real life, we would do something.

And I am not the only one who thinks so. Earlier in the year, ISBA and Nationwide launched the #ChallengeHate initiative. And now Maltesers and McCain are actively supporting it. The three brands have now joined forces with Channel 4 and this evening the campaign will take over the first ad break in the new series of Gogglebox. Ads from our three brands will be aired but the originals have been treated to include real examples of online abuse that the contributors have received and various effects have been added to distort the film to illustrate the impact of the abuse. It is very compelling.

As I say, it is a problem that most brands face to a greater or lesser extent. It would be great to see more brands joining in to take a stand. ISBA has produced some really useful guidance for brands on how to get involved.

It is time we made social media less anti-social.