Hit or Miss? Aviva hits Downton Abbey viewers with 'depressing' campaign

Aviva faced a torrent of online criticism last Sunday after it ran adverts during ITV's Downton Abbey dramatising the story of Gary, a real-life customer who suffered a motorcycle accident and lost his job.

Downton Abbey: viewers hit by depressing Aviva campaign (Nick Brigg)
Downton Abbey: viewers hit by depressing Aviva campaign (Nick Brigg)

After the flood of complaints about the adverts, Aviva was forced to issue a statement. 'We are reviewing with interest all comments,' it read. 'We are aware that the approach we've taken is different to the norm.'


Sacha Deshmukh, CEO, MHP Communications

It should have been a sure-fire hit, but what a disaster.

You can tell Aviva's creatives wanted to devise the next Gold Blend or BT family. A soap within a soap. But they failed to take into account the core aim of the Downton viewer. Downton is all about escapism, and a final chance on a Sunday night to forget about the cares of the modern world.

What was Aviva thinking in giving us such a hideous tale of motorbike accidents and endless back and forth about whether the character could go back to work?

The dreadful creative premise was compounded by a failure to then manage the social media storm. Who doesn't watch Downton while tweeting or Facebook-ing? So the protest spread instantly and is still bubbling away. This is a definite miss.


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