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Channel 4 in hot water over 'Six Feet Under' ad campaign

LONDON: Controversy is not new territory for Britain's Channel 4. Earlier it drew the ire of UK authorities through shows like the Brass Eye paedophile special, The Autopsy.

Now its ad campaign for the critically acclaimed show Six Feet Under that pictured glamorous men and women alongside references to "wound filler" and "embalming fluid" has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

A Media Guardian report indicates that the watchdog launched an investigation into press ads for Six Feet Under, which revolves around a family of Los Angeles undertakers. ASA has received over 100 complaints. In India, the show airs on Zee English.

Channel 4's promotional campaign, drew its inspiration from the mock television ads for funeral service products such as embalming fluid and wound filler that appeared in the pilot episode of the show.

The ad campaign is shot in the same style as these spoof ads from the show, which are a pastiche of conventional campaigns for upmarket beauty and fashion brands. One of the ads features a naked head and shoulders shot of a male model, made up to look like a corpse, with an image of a bottle of spoof brand "In Eternum embalming fluid" beside him.

Defending the strategy, Channel 4 marketing manager, Katie Hayes had been quoted in earlier reports saying: "Six Feet Under embodies the attitudes and values of Channel 4 - innovative, provocative and intelligent. By marketing the Fisher's funeral business instead of directly marketing the show, we aim to create intrigue and anticipation. Although the campaign focuses on death, the parallels that we draw with the fashion and beauty industry give it a sardonic but tasteful feel."

Several media owners are understood to have shown their opposition to the ad campaign by offering Channel 4 such disadvantageous advertising space that the broadcaster decided not to book the ads. The print ads featured in Time Out, the Independent on Sunday Review, the Observer magazine and the Times magazine.

The ASA complainants said that the campaign could be offensive, particularly to people who had recently lost a loved one. Channel 4 has already been forced to take down a poster campaign for the series after it was deluged with complaints.

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