A television ad for a comparison site featuring an animated cash-eating monster must no longer screen before 7.30pm after a young child copied it by swallowing coins.
The GoCompare.com ad shows a woman shocked to find the small Monster Bill eating the cash from her neighbour’s purse.
The neighbour explains that the monster was her home insurance bill, to which the woman exclaims: “It’s eating all your money.”
A parent, who said their four-year-old child swallowed coins after watching the ad, complained that it could encourage emulation by younger children.
GoCompare said that while there was a clear difference between swallowing coins and Monster Bill’s eating of fake paper money, it was concerned by the complainant’s experience and “would never wish for that to happen”.
It said it would apply a restriction to prevent the ad from screening during or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children under 16.
Ad clearance agency Clearcast said that while the eating of paper money was not to be recommended, any potential harm could not be compared to the swallowing of coins, adding that as eating paper was not especially harmful it did not see the need to impose a timing restriction on the ad.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was concerned that the ad might encourage young children to attempt to swallow money themselves, which was “a dangerous practice to emulate”.
“As such, while we acknowledged that the ad was suitable for older children, there was a risk that the ad would cause harm to younger children,” it said.
It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form before 7.30pm.
A GoCompare spokesman said: “Our advert featuring Monster Bill was never designed to appeal to children, and while we believe it is unlikely that the advert would influence a child to copy the character, we understand the concern and are happy to apply the 7.30pm time restriction.”