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'Test Baby' Super Bowl ad gets big edit after complaints

Feb. 9, 2011 at 1:47 PM ET

Following mounting criticism, one buzzed-about Super Bowl ad has undergone a major edit online and won't be shown on television again.

HomeAway’s “test baby” commercial, a spot that featured a bizarrely lifelike rubber infant sailing through the air and smashing against a glass wall, crossed a line according to some critics, and the vacation company has since responded.

“We talked with hundreds of people both before and after the ad aired, and most clearly understand that it wasn’t intended to glorify or promote violence towards children,” HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples said in a statement on the company’s Web site. “Just as Snickers wasn’t promoting violence towards women (Roseanne Barr struck by a log), or Doritos wasn’t trying to promote pet abuse (in its highly rated spot about a dog being enticed to jump through a window). However, since the ad aired, we’ve been in contact with many people who expressed that they were genuinely offended by some of the images. Some of the people we talked to were concerned that our ad trivializes violence toward children, while others felt that the imagery was too shocking to be appropriate.”

Among those troubled by the ad was Patrick Donohue of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, a group advocating proper care for children and young adults who’ve suffered brain injuries.

"It's a gratuitous act of violence against an infant child, advertised to a demographic that is the number one cause of harm to innocent babies," Donohue told USA Today of the ad shortly after it aired.

After listening to such critics, Sharples decided “the image of the test baby doll is too hurtful for (the company) not to take action” and he chose to edit the spot on the website and completely cut it from television.

“We have decided to remove the versions of the ad that depict the doll getting smushed, smashed, or dropped from our website,” Sharples explained. “We (have) cut a new version of the ad showing the test baby doll being safely caught and unharmed… We have also changed our planned online campaign and will remove all creative showing the doll, and will replace those online ads with other creative executions. And, of course, we will not be airing the ‘test baby’ ad again on television.”

 The company’s turnaround has satisfied Donohue.

"They deserve some real praise for making the right corporate response," Donohue told the Austin American-Statesman. "Hopefully, it will set an example for the way companies should respond to these situations."

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