Did this anti-smoking ad go too far?

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An anti-smoking commercial featuring a child in a crowded train station who cries when his mother steps away is sparking debate on whether it's appropriate for commercials to shock their audience into taking action.

The commercial seems harmless enough until one realizes that the four-year-old child's tears are real -- and his actual mother briefly stepped away from the boy, causing him to be overcome with real fear.

"This is how your child feels after losing you for a minute," a voice tells the viewer, "just imagine if they lost you for life." The commercial is for the Australian anti-smoking group Quit Victoria.

In an interview this morning with the Today Show's Matt Lauer, the group's executive director, Fiona Sharkie, said the boy was completely safe during the filming of the commercial.
"This was an ad we made with enormous sensitivity," she told Lauer. "Both Alex and his mother were fully briefed and rehearsed before the commercial ... Towards the end he lost sight of his mother as opposed to her walking away. He did shed some real tears toward the end."

Sharkie said the commercial was filmed in one take.

Watch Matt Lauer's interview with Fiona Sharkie:

So what do you think ... as Lauer asks, is it ever OK to traumatize a child to send a poignant message? Do you believe this child was actually traumatized in the first place?

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    This page contains a single entry by Kevin Allen published on April 3, 2009 8:06 AM.

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