Barnardo's babies cause uproar

Several charities have broken ranks and launched an attack on Barnardo's 'silver spoon' press campaign, which features disturbing images of babies with alternatives to spoons in their mouths.

But Barnardo's is standing by the ads, which launched last week (Third Sector, 12 November), and says that the reality of poverty is more shocking than the campaign's computer-generated images.

Unusually for the voluntary sector, NCH and Child Poverty Action Group, which both work with Barnardo's in the End Child Poverty coalition, have criticised the campaign's imagery.

"We are concerned about the way in which the complex issue of child poverty is linked specifically to drug abuse and alcoholism," said Martin Barnes, director of Child Poverty Action Group. "Poverty is more likely to have a negative impact on education, health and employment prospects."

NCH said the ads were "demeaning and insulting" to the very people they purport to help.

Other members of the coalition, including NSPCC, the Children's Society and the National Children's Bureau, are not commenting on the adverts.

The images have also provoked outrage from the wider voluntary sector and the general public.

"Poverty is many things, but 'horror movie' it isn't," said John Barraclough, campaign manager at Catalyst, a marketing agency for the voluntary sector.

"The ad may be profile raising, but for the wrong reasons. This is bad advertising that shows a poor understanding of the sector and why people support it."

As Third Sector went to press, the Advertising Standards Authority had received 244 complaints via its website alone. However, Barnardo's says that it has also received many positive comments, and has urged the authority to take these into account.

"Callers in support of the adverts tell us they are being ignored by the ASA who only seem interested in listening to negative opinions," said Andrew Nebel, director of marketing and communication at the charity.

The authority is investigating the complaints and expects to adjudicate within two weeks.

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