BBC Digital 'Faces' promotion (partially lost BBC One/Two advertising material; 2005)

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This article has been tagged as Needing work due to its lack of clarity and unfinished nature.


Screenshot of the original 50 sec ad.

Status: Partially Lost

The BBC's digital TV 'Faces' promotion was made as a co-production between Conkerco, The Mill, Artem Digital, Red Bee Media, and DFGW, and an on-air promotion to inform the viewer on how to get the six extra BBC channels on cable, satellite services, and Freeview.


The Trails were first announced on a Campaign Live article on 23 September 2005.

According to the BBC's complaints report for April to June 2006, The Trails were originally set to be broadcast between 5 November and 23 December. The broadcasts ended on 9 December.

David Knight, known as revelationsr on YouTube, was working with The Mill at the time, as was Chris Rule of Conkerco, who remembers the process very well.

"The Mill had about 13 people working on it, and they even had to build a few plugins to allow the heads to follow the main face.

They were given 20 scanned-in heads of people. Three of these heads were scanned in saying all the lines in the advert.

My main role was to animate the other 17 heads saying the same lines.

After that, I went on to particle animation. I came up with a method to allow "flocking" like particle animation without using even a single line of code.

I remember showing this method to one of the coders, whereas it seemed so simple and obvious to him.

He told me I shouldn't make a habit of doing things this way because I will put him out of work.

When we were about 75% done, something happened over in the war. I didn't bother adding the details in the description of my video, because I was aware that some of my viewers would realize what tragic occurrence I was referring to.

It was neither the fault of the BBC or any of the creatives, just really bad timing. I think the ad was pulled after about three airings, which is too bad because the technical achievement we managed to pull off with this ad was great for its time."
-David Knight (revelationsr)

According to Stephen Venning, The Mill's head of 3D, "This is, without doubt, one of the most demanding projects we've ever undertaken."

Stephen employed motion capture, 3D digitization, plus herding and flocking software to wrangle thousands of CG heads, "especially when you consider [we had] four weeks from the conform for the first 50-second main commercial.

According to Tim de Lisle in an article on The Guardian called "Heads roll at the BBC", Artem supplied the technology for the ads.

And Chris Rule states the trails were "shot on film and only scanned / post produced at PAL resolution," hence the reason for their absence from the Conkerco website.

The Trails

The ads first aired on 5 November 2005, and were scheduled next to programmes such as EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing, and Neighbors. The ads' airtimes were during daytime and at peak. The 50 sec ad features a giant animated head being held together by smaller heads, morphing into that of a lion, then the heads of John Simpson and Shakespeare, as it informs us of the programmes airing on the six extra channels at the time.


Two of the four (two of a male head, two of a female head) ads (aside from the original and the Christmas ad) have been confirmed to feature the heads of Postman Pat and Bob the Builder, though the Postman Pat ad is yet to surface on YouTube.

The BBC regretted that the ads were disliked by people but it was originally meant to inspire people.[1]

The campaign concluded with a Christmas version of the ad (both a 30-second version and 10-second version are available to watch on Justin Hewelt's YT channel) which was immediately withdrawn after its first airings due to a majority of the BBC's viewers at the time suffering from trypophobia (fear of clusters).

One viewer complained about the advertisement and described it as "disturbingly psychotic" "It makes me feel queasy thinking about it," wrote another contributor, while a third described it as "absolutely horrible". [2] "We have been very conscious that some viewers disliked the nature of the trail, although clearly, it was not our intention to offend. [3]

Governors’ Programme Complaints Committee (GPCC) says the trail should never have been shown before the watershed and has criticised the way the corporation explained the decision to stop airing it.[4]

one viewer telling the Points of View bulletin board they “made me feel physically sick and now I have to go out of the room when it is on”. Another said it was “hideous” and “demonic”.[5]

"As a registered psychotherapist, I wish to protest that this image is disturbingly psychotic. Its unacknowledged aggression could make a fragile viewer ill". Another entry reads: "I was having my dinner when the advert came on and it was all I could do to keep my food down. The images actually made my skin crawl."[6]


After the ads aired for a final time on 9 December 2005, the campaign ended three days later after the complaints racked up from 400 to 1,300.

The subject came back a few times through 2006, whether it's about the ads disproving that "the penis is evil" or governors objecting to the campaign ever airing in the first place.

YouTubers Aiden Investigations and LumPeyCusTerEd both remember when this campaign came to fruition. Aiden was 9 years old when the ads came on. LPCTE remembers seeing the ad with Bob the Builder's head.

According to Aiden, there is confirmation of an ad featuring Fireman Sam.

Out of the female head ads, a screenshot was posted by Andrew in a blog post on the Biased BBC blog site.


The original ad is currently viewable on The Mill's website and Stash Animation Magazine.

Some footage of one of the ads can be viewed of episode 4 of Armando Iannucci's Time Trumpet as per a sketch, where Richard Ayode informs the viewer that the heads are, in fact, the heads of 2,000 headless bodies. The ad is also available on some continuity/junction recordings on YouTube, as well as revelationsr's channel.

On 12 June 2018, YouTuber wesley cracknell uploaded some footage from his tapes of continuity on BBC One in 2005, including the Christmas ad, as well as the full female head ad with Bob the Builder.

Currently 3/4 ads have been found, in full. There is a possibility that the missing ad is available on the BBC Redux website; however, this service is only available to those with a functional email address.

As of 2019, the original ad uploaded by revelationsr is no longer available on YouTube, but can still be viewed on Vimeo and Dailymotion.


Partial clip of ad.
The Christmas ad.
The original 50 sec ad.
Footage of ad begins at 0:23.