Update: Channel 4 has provided us with a statement regarding the personalised ad campaign. A spokesperson for the company said: “All 4 viewers are presented with an option to opt out before personalised ads start playing and at any time, via their settings, can choose to opt out of all personalised advertising across the service.”
Original Story: Channel 4’s new personalised ad campaign for Alien: Covenant has sparked controversy, after viewers began reporting that it could affect those who suffer from mental health issues such as schizophrenia, psychosis and hallucinations.
The personalised ad campaign sees Channel 4’s 4OD video on demand service utilising the account data of its users, with it displaying an ad for the sci-fi horror movie that concludes with the message “[name of viewer]… run!” The message, which appears onscreen and is also shouted by the ad’s narrator, is displayed alongside the face of a Xenomorph, the iconic alien enemy featured in the film series.
The impact the ad could have on those suffering from schizophrenia and psychosis was flagged by Twitter user @jasmineeec, who tweeted out the following warning:
warning for friends who are prone to psychosis etc that 4OD are running personalised scary adverts atm. from a pal pic.twitter.com/EuJxiZfKqw
— jasmine (@jasmineeec) May 16, 2017
However, Alien: Covenant won’t be the first 4OD ad campaign to receive the personalised treatment. Last month Channel 4 revealed that it would be rolling out more personalised ads to users of its on demand service. “Foster’s will be sharing a pint with viewers whose names will prefix the line “…this one’s for you”; whilst Ronseal hopes that by getting personal they will motivate viewers to get on with their DIY,” the broadcaster said.
The NHS explains how those suffering from schizophrenia “may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.” The various symptoms of schizophrenia includes hallucinations, delusions and muddled thoughts, with the NHS describing how those recovering from schizophrenia can reduce the chance of severe relapses by “recognising the signs of an acute episode,” which could be muddied by the 4OD ad calling its viewers out by name.
Discussing the impact the 4OD ad could have on schizophrenics and psychosis sufferers, one user wrote: “One symptom of my psychosis was thinking ppl were trying to communicate with me telepathically. Imagine if I’d heard a voice saying my name!” Another user added: “I can imagine what I’d do if this happened to me and it makes me terrified just to think about it. This is f***ed up. Especially f***ed up because the reason I watch stuff at night is to calm myself before bed so I don’t have anxiety attacks and nightmares.”
The ads were created in collaboration with PL4Y, the integrated creative approach of 4Sales, the company behind the famous Coca-Cola marketing campaign which saw names being printed on cans and bottles of the soft drink. We have reached out to Channel 4 and will update this story when he hear back.