Water safety campaigners in County Durham have welcomed a global food giant’s decision to change a TV advert.
Last month an advert from Birds Eye began airing on national television featuring footage of a man and a boy jumping into water, with the voiceover: “Captain Birds Eye loves the simple things, like jumping into cold water on a hot day with his grandson.”
The advert was released following extensive campaigning by Durham County Council, as a member of the Safe Durham Partnership, to raise awareness of the dangers of the potentially fatal risks of jumping into water without getting used to the temperature first.
The council has worked with the family of Crook 14 year old Cameron Gosling, who died from ‘cold water shock’ after jumping into the River Wear without acclimatising near Bishop Auckland in 2015.
The Dying to be Cool campaign has seen the council and Cameron’s mum Fiona deliver school assemblies to more than 10,000 children across County Durham. A video telling ‘Cameron’s Story’ has also reached more than one million people on Facebook alone.
The advert prompted the council to write to Birds Eye calling for the advert to be changed.
The letter, written by Jane Robinson, chair of Durham City Safety Group, and Kevin Lough, chair of Durham Open Water Safety Group, says: “The groups are very concerned about the messaging in your recent advert which specifically states ‘Captain Birdseye loves the simple things – like jumping into cold water on a hot day with his grandson.’
“Jumping into water can result in cold water shock which is a major factor in drownings. Most waters in the UK are of a temperature which would induce cold water shock all year round.
“Durham City Safety Group and Durham Open Water Safety Group therefore ask that you do not continue to suggest jumping into cold water on a hot day is safe. This behaviour is not a ‘simple thing’, it leads to many fatalities and we ask that you reconsider this messaging.”
Birds Eye has now confirmed it has pulled the advert and that it will be removing the references to the temperature of the water and the weather.
Mrs Robinson said: “We were disappointed by the advert’s reference to jumping into cold water on a hot day given all the work we’ve done but we are pleased Birds Eye has acted so quickly and responsibly in agreeing to change it.
“We’d remind everyone that it’s never a good idea to jump into cold water without acclimatising and we will continue to do all we can to get this message across to people.”
Mrs Gosling, who also contacted the company to raise her concerns, said: “There are so many families and organisations that work so hard on water safety education so it came as a shock when I saw the advert.
“It seemed as though Birds Eye hadn’t done its research before making it but I’m grateful that they agreed to change the advert and at how quickly they acted.”
Dying to be Cool has contributed to a reduction in water related fatalities and injuries since it was launched.
In 2015/16, there were nine near misses, five injuries and two fatalities across County Durham, according to Safe Durham Partnership figures.
In 2016/17, following the launch of the campaign, there were just four near misses, two injuries and one fatality.
In all of 2017, there were no fatalities in open water in County Durham.