ING Direct pulls RSP “Suffering” ad over complaints

Mental health advocates deem ad "insensitive and disrespectful"

Mental health advocates deem ad “insensitive and disrespectful”

ING Direct has pulled the new “Are You Suffering?” TV spot for its current RSP campaign after complaints from prominent mental health professionals that the ads reinforced negative stereotypes about mental illness.

ING spokesperson Buket Oktem confirmed to Marketing Tuesday morning that the Toronto-based financial services company had pulled the ad and replaced it with earlier work.

The bilingual campaign from Toronto agency John St. compared the anxiety that people feel about starting an RSP to a malady that can cause symptoms like sleeplessness and anxiety.

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• ING Direct campaign offers cure for RSP-like symptoms

A TV spot included images of a man sitting forlornly on a chair outside and lying motionless on a couch. The man is cured when his wife notices his condition and directs him to the ING Direct website.

“As a result of feedback we’ve received through social media, we’ve decided to remove our RSP spot from TV. It was never our intention to make light of any health conditions relating to mental illness, or to upset or offend anyone suffering from serious conditions like depression. It’s clear our message about stress and anxiety around RSPs was misinterpreted, and we feel it’s best to stop airing the ad,” said Mark Nicholson, head of digital, creative and communications at ING Direct, in a statement.

In a comment made on MarketingMag.ca, Peter Coleridge, national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), called the ads “insensitive and disrespectful” to people suffering from mental health issues.

He said that the campaign demonstrates there is still “significant work to do” to improve societal understanding of mental health and mental illness. “Like other forms of discrimination and stigma (e.g. religion, race, sexuality, physical disabilities), discriminatory and stigmatizing attitudes and behaviours toward people with mental illness are not acceptable in today’s society,” he wrote.

Camille Quennville, CEO of the CMHA’s Ontario chapter, commented: “These ads reinforce the stigma that prevents people from reaching out to get the help they need. They are offensive.”

Update: Marketing originally reported that ING Direct’s entire “Are You Suffering” campaign had been pulled. Only the television spot has been pulled. Marketing regrets the error.

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