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A TV ad for GoCompare.com has been hit with scheduling restrictions by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the spot allegedly inspired a toddler to swallow coins.

The video, which features GoCompare mascots Monster Bill and Gio Compario, must not be broadcast again before 7.30, after the ASA ruled that younger children might not understand its fantastical nature and try to emulate the characters.

The watchdog acted after receiving a complaint from a parent who said that their four-year-old child swallowed coins after watching the ad. The complainant was worried that the ad encouraged children to mimic Monster Bill, an animated ape-like creature who devours the cash of a woman concerned about her insurance renewal bill. Gio Compario, the insurance comparison site’s talismanic Italian tenor, saves the day by forcing the monster into a kitchen extractor hood.

The ASA said that, while older children would understand the surreal nature of the ad, younger children might not be as savvy and may “identify with the playful child-like character.” The watchdog was concerned that “the ad might encourage young children to attempt to swallow money themselves” and cause harm to children.

GoCompare said that it was “concerned by the complainant’s experience and would never wish for that to happen,” and offered to place a restriction on the ad’s broadcast schedule that meant it would not be transmitted in or adjacent to television programmes aimed at children.

Both GoCompare.com and Clearcast asserted that, despite the use of animation and a cartoonish monster character, the ad was not aimed at children. GoCompare said it considered “the ad would be far more relatable to adults than to children,” and that it was unlikely the ad would directly or indirectly influence a child to swallow money.

In particular, Clearcast suggested that the complainant’s child had not been inspired by the ad because the child had attempted to swallow coins, rather than the bank notes being shown eaten in the spot – noting that because eating paper “was not especially harmful”, that it did not see the need for the ASA’s timing restriction.

GoCompare.com’s Monster Bill ads were created by the PI Film Network with the aim of repositioning mascot Compario (played by Welsh opera singer Wynne Evans) as a hero, rather than an annoyance, to viewers. Monster Bill was created by VFX shop Framestore.