The sight of Frank Thomas, nicknamed the Big Hurt, swinging a pillow at a child in a commercial for the Toronto Blue Jays is not being as well received, at least by officials who regulate advertising on Canadian private television.
To win approval for unrestricted airing of its commercial, the American League club had to revise the original 30-second spot, which features a carefree Mr. Thomas in a pillow fight with a couple of young boys who are hopping on a bed.
“I think we are taking ourselves a little too seriously if we’re saying a pillow fight cannot air because it’s viewed as too aggressive, or Frank’s too big versus a small child,” said Laurel Lindsay, vice-president of marketing for the Blue Jays.
“It’s ridiculous. I can’t shrink Frank and nor would I try to make the child grow. That’s sort of the life of the [commercial], seeing the two interact. It was disappointing for sure. Surprising, I think, would be the ultimate word.”
In the original version of the 30-second commercial, one of a series promoting the start of the Blue Jays’ new season, a smiling Mr. Thomas enters a bedroom where a couple of boys are jumping on a bed and engaging in a pillow fight.
“Hey, you guys are supposed to be in bed,” he says. One of the boys then hits him with a pillow.
“Oh yeah?” Mr. Thomas responds, grabbing the pillow and striking the child with a mighty baseball-like swing. Feathers fly, and the child rockets backward off the bed and can be heard thudding to the floor.
The commercial cuts to a smiling Mr. Thomas trotting out of the room as he would around the base paths after hitting a home run. The fallen child pops his head up and proclaims, “Wow.”
The Blue Jays and Publicis Toronto, the company that came up with the ad, felt the spot was innocuous. However, the Television Bureau of Canada, the watchdog that approves TV commercials for private broadcasters, thought otherwise.
TBC refused to approve the commercial until the part showing the child being knocked to the floor was edited out.
The TBC also refused to approve another of the Jays’ commercials, this one featuring pitcher A.J. Burnett, until the word “dramatization” was added to the spot.
In the commercial, Mr. Burnett is late putting out the household garbage, arriving outside his home in a white bathrobe just as the garbage truck is pulling away.
Mr. Burnett’s response is to pitch the small bag of garbage he is clutching and it falls into the back of the truck after skimming the head of one of the sanitation workers.