Here's a poser for you: you're trying to knock together a TV ad highlighting the effects of war on children. What's the plan?
Well, you could go down the traditional route of earnest voice-over accompanying footage of said kids miserably awaiting a better life or, on the other hand, you could arm up a squadron of attack aircraft and go and raze a Smurf village to the ground. Let's face it, it's a toughie.
Not for Unicef Belgium though, which earlier this week reduced an enchanted Smurf hamlet to smouldering rubble - much to the horror of some TV viewers across the Channel - when it aired a 25-second burst of animated warnography on the country's TV screens.
The offending cartoon, created with the full approval of the family of the Smurfs' departed creator Peyo, the Daily Telegraph notes, sees the cuddly blue creatures kicking off the action by dancing hand-in-hand round the campfire while singing that catchy Smurf song we all know and love.
Death then begins to rain from the sky as bombs spread fiery death through Smurfdom leaving just a "scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs", as the Telegraph puts it. The end caption reads: "Don't let war affect the lives of children."
The ad campaign is intended to raise awareness of the plight of Burundi's former child soldiers, and rustle up £70,000 towards their rehabilitation. Unicef Belgium spokesman Philippe Henon explained: "It's controversial. We have never done something like this before but we've learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited."
Yes indeed, compassion fatigue now requires charitable organisations to drop napalm on cartoon favourites to shock the public out of its tragedy-saturated torpor. Mind you, it's not as bad as it could have been. The ad agency behind the carnage, Publicis, originally wanted something along the lines of an animated Now That's Fucked Up, complete with severed limbs and decapitations, but Unicef wisely shot that idea down in flames.
The ad can only be shown in Belgium after the nine o'clock watershed, which is obviously not late enough for those traumatised kids who caught a glimpse of its premiere during the main evening news.
Of course, the Smurfs are a Belgian invention, first appearing in comic form in 1958. This might explain the horrified reaction over there. We reckon, on the other hand, that if the Smurf apocalypse TV ad were shown in Britain, Blair and Bush's approval rating for military action abroad would treble in a flash among adults more than willing to support any initiative which involves dropping munitions on Smurfs. ®
There's a copy of the video available here, although I admit I haven't got the right plug-in to view it. Ah, that'd be Linux for you. Happy viewing.