In 2017, advertisements for Daddy’s Home 2 are forcibly played while you use the toilet

Just like Orwell predicted. 

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There are two things in this world that scientists once thought it was impossible to make worse. The first: going to the toilet on a train journey that cost you a day and a half’s wages, trying to relieve yourself as the train bump, bump, bumps from side to side and a man with a tin in his hand claws at the door as you frantically check to see whether the lock button is still illuminated, and the second: Daddy’s Home, the 2015 American comedy in which Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg literally (literally!) compare the size and shape of each other’s testicles.

As the patron saints of making your life worse, however, Virgin Trains has now proved scientists wrong. A new marketing campaign sees the world’s two-worst-things combined to make one-super-terrible-awful-thing that cements 2017’s status as God’s greatest mistake.

This November and December, when/if you go to the toilet on a Virgin train, the disembodied voice of Will Ferrell will read you an advertisement for his new movie Daddy’s Home 2.

Initially announced over a week ago, this new promotion only gained mainstream attention yesterday after journalist Gavia Baker-Whitelaw shared a video of the promotional stunt via her personal Twitter account. (There were some PR headlines before this, such as the imaginative “VIRGIN TRAINS TO(I)LET WILL FERRELL LOO-SE WITH ONBOARD TOILET ANNOUNCEMENTS” from mynewsdesk.com).

From inside the toilet cubicle/chamber of hell itself, Baker-Whitelaw filmed Ferrell rattling off relevant announcements (“Please don't try to flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels…”) after plugging his new movie (“I'm Will Ferrell, the star of the new movie Daddy’s Home 2”).

Although Baker-Whitelaw’s tweet was the first to gain attention on the site, many train-travellers have been complaining about the new promotion since it was launched. “Weekend low point: vomiting into a Virgin Trains loo during a fucking recorded toilet message by Will Ferrell for Daddy’s Home 2,” wrote one Twitter user. Another: “I have a virus so hopefully hallucinating but *think* I heard the voice of Will Ferrell in @virgintrains toilets & it’s deeply disturbing!”

But here’s the fun part about this story! Absolutely nothing! Virgin Trains are also offering a toilet seat signed by Ferrell as a competition prize. If a novelist tried to create the worst dystopia they could think of as a harrowing but necessary warning to us all, this plot point would easily be dismissed as too ridiculous. Invasive advertising while you go to the toilet on a denationalised service that you already pay extortionate prices to use? Okay, sure. A toilet seat signed by a Hollywood star who is promoting a new movie in which he cast a noted anti-semite in a key role? Preposterous! What a hammy plot.

So, is all this allowed? A spokesperson from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said they have had no complaints about the advert so far, and as such it would be difficult for them to comment. The ASA currently don't have regulations in place for irritating adverts (a massive oversight) and also don't regulate "in-store" material, which this could potentially qualify as. No one, but no one, can rescue us from these horrors. 

How do we, as a society, move on from this? Some might argue we’ll be fine after 31 December, when the voiceovers stop and your regularly scheduled toileting can resume as normal. But I don’t think so. Watching the trailer for Daddy’s Home 2 by choice, in your own time, when you know what’s coming, is upsetting enough. To have it thrust upon you in your most vulnerable state? There will be casualties. 

Amelia Tait is features editor at Shortlist.com, she was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer, and tweets at @ameliargh.