Legs splayed, thighs bloodied, a baby's head emerges from between her legs to the rowdy cries of the crowd. This isn't an episode of TLC's "Maternity Ward," though, it's a viral ad campaign: The mother is a schoolgirl, and she's giving birth on the playground. Not only that, but the whole school is watching. (OMG, embarrassing!)
It's an attempt by Britain's National Health Service to prevent teenage pregnancy. Why focus on sex education and providing easy access to birth control and condoms, when you can just cut to the chase and scare the living daylights out of them? The spot is made to look like it's filmed on a cellphone camera and opens on a high school courtyard with some teen boys gesturing us in the direction of a crowd of students hooting and hollering. As the camera nears the group, you expect to see a couple of boys tussling on the grass. Instead, of course, there's a girl giving birth.
The ad isn't branded and there's no cautionary voice-over -- they don't want it to seem like a stale sex talk from out-of-touch, irrelevant adults. The idea is that kids will think it's real and make it go viral by sending it to all their friends -- too bad for them, though, it's already been deemed too graphic and banned by YouTube. (You can still watch the video here.)
Somehow, I suspect the ad was bound to fail one way or another: A generation raised on reality TV -- and not-so-real reality TV -- will be able to suss out when a spot is authentic and when it's relying on soap-opera scare tactics.