Two pre-roll ads seen on YouTube in late December 2017 and early January 2018 for the 15-rated (PG-13 rated in the US) horror film, Insidious: The Last Key . Both ads featured a number of scenes in quick succession and tense sound effects:
a. The ad opened with a shot of a house in the dark and then showed a young woman walking through it. She was shown looking at some medical instruments on a table before being thrown backwards by a force. She was then depicted lying on the floor
screaming whilst a humanoid creature with claw-like fingers probed at her throat. Further scenes included a creature hanging upside down, the same woman screaming on a hospital bed and a clawed hand emerging from a sleeve. Another female
character said, People who need help with hauntings come to me, but this house is my family's house. I'm going to find it and I'm going to finish it. In the final scenes of the ad a male character said, Lisa there's someone right in front of
you. Lisa replied, I don't see anything. A hand was shown reaching out to her in the dark and then a sudden shot of a grinning creature with fanged teeth was shown next to a woman.
The ad was seen before a video of songs from Frozen, a video about how to build a Lego fire station and a video of the children's cartoon PJ Masks.
b. The ad opened with a young woman lying on a floor immobile, bloodied and distressed while a humanoid creature crept towards her and then probed at her with claw-like fingers and pierced her skin. At the same time another female character
said, People with matters that can't be explained, come to me. But this one is different. This was my family's house. A male character than stated, I'm going to count back from five, four, three, two and a number of brief scenes were shown,
including a woman's eyeballs turning to white, a huddled female figure on the floor in the dark, a woman lying on a bed screaming and a screaming woman appearing and then disappearing behind someone. In the final scene of the ad a woman was
shown slowly opening a suitcase and a creature suddenly leapt from it.
The ad was seen before two Minecraft videos.
The ASA received five complaints, three of which were from parents who said their children saw the ads and two from adults who said they had found the ads distressing. They objected that:
the ads were irresponsibly targeted because they were seen before videos which were of appeal to children; and
the ads were unduly distressing.
Columbia Pictures Corporation Ltd t/a Sony Pictures Releasing UK said they had targeted the ads on YouTube to an adult audience, by excluding audiences below 18 years and preventing the ads being shown before content with unknown audiences. They
said their agency had also added a layer of safety by using further YouTube targeting, including content exclusions such as content that was suitable for families, over 1,000 negative keywords exclusions including keywords with appeal to children,
over 40 negative topic exclusions including religion, politics, news and children's content, and they opted out of all display network content to ensure they had control over websites and apps with audiences aged under 18 years.
YouTube said that advertisers administered their own campaigns, and were responsible for determining the appropriate targeting, and could control what types of users saw their campaigns and against what types of content they did not want their
campaigns to appear. They said advertisers could target specific demographics, excluding anyone who was not logged-in with a declared or inferred age of over-18.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
1. & 2. Upheld
The ads were for a 15-rated horror film and featured a series of clips from the film. The ASA recognised the complainants' concerns that both ads were seen before content on YouTube with particular appeal or interest to children, including videos
of songs from Frozen, of the cartoon PJ Masks and videos relating to Minecraft and Lego. We considered that the ads were unsuitable for children because they were excessively frightening and shocking, and were likely to cause fear and distress,
most notably the scenes with the woman on the floor screaming and in distress while the humanoid creature approached her and clawed at her throat, and in which the creature's face appeared suddenly.
We noted that three complainants also believed the ads were unduly distressing for adults and two stated that they had suffered particular distress from viewing the ads. We understood that ad (b) had been cleared for TV with a post 11 pm
scheduling restriction by Clearcast, which indicated that it contained the strongest allowable content of a graphic or distressing nature for TV. Ad (b) featured in particular a close-up shot of the humanoid creature's claw piercing the woman's
throat, and built suspense with sound effects and screaming, and a voice-over countdown, at the end of which a creature suddenly jumped out of a suitcase. We considered that ad (a), although slightly less graphic, contained a similar level of
frightening content. Furthermore, both ads contained other content which was shocking in nature. Several scenes featured the sudden appearance of the creature's face or a woman with white eyeballs, together with tense sound effects.
We considered that the ads may have been appropriate to show before limited content on YouTube with similar themes and imagery that was intended for adults. However, when seen by the complainants the ads were juxtaposed against unrelated content
such as Minecraft videos. They also were not skippable until five seconds into the ads and did not contain any warning regarding their content. We therefore considered that the ads, in that context, were likely to cause excessive fear or distress
for some adults without justifiable reason, because they were unexpectedly shocking and frightening.
We understood that Sony Pictures Releasing UK had identified and restricted the YouTube content before which the ads should not be shown, in particular putting in place topical and demographic exclusions on content with appeal to children or with
unknown audiences. However, the ads had appeared before various videos that were highly likely to be of appeal or interest to children, and we noted that one of the complainants viewed ad (b) when they were not signed in to YouTube. The ads were
also likely to be unduly distressing to some adults in the context in which they appeared. For those reasons, we concluded that the ads had not been targeted appropriately and were likely to cause undue distress, and therefore were in breach of
We told Sony Pictures Releasing UK to ensure that future ads that were unsuitable for viewing by children were appropriately targeted, and that similar future ads were targeted appropriately to ensure they did not cause undue distress to their
likely audience without justifiable reason.
A Facebook ad for the lease of a Fiat Spider by LINGsCars, a car leasing company, seen on 23 February 2018, featured text which stated These Fiat Spiders must be registered by the end of March on current reg [sic] plate, but are you that anal
about number plates? Who needs a V8 Kia Stinker or a BMW bum boy car, when you have the best small convertible ever?
A complainant challenged whether the reference to a BMW bum boy car was offensive.
LINGsCARs.com stated that they aimed to target their ad at people above the age of 24 and to those who had an interest in cars. They did not believe the term BMW Bum Boy was offensive and thought it was a well-known term for someone who owned a
modified BMW vehicle and drove aggressively. They suggested changing the wording to the term BMW Batty Boy.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA considered that bum boy was widely understood as a derogatory term directed at homosexual men and that the use of that term to describe a vehicle would therefore be regarded as homophobic by many people. Whilst we acknowledged Ling's Cars
comments on their target audience, we considered that a person's age and their interest in cars had no relevance as to whether or not they would be offended by homophobic language. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious
offence to some readers.
We acknowledged Ling's Cars suggested change of wording to BMW Batty Boy, but considered that was not significantly different to the original term and was equally offensive for the same reason.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told LINGsCARS.com Ltd to ensure their future advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society, and that it did not cause serious or widespread offence.
An outdoor poster ad for Silks of Glasgow, a lingerie store, seen in December 2017, featured an image of
a woman in lingerie, leaning forward to emphasise her bust. The image poster featured the woman's body only and not her head or face. The image was accompanied by the text Tease the Season.
A complainant, who believed the ad objectified women, objected that it was offensive.
Silks did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA was concerned by Silk's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code rule(Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in
The purpose of the ad was to advertise a collection of lingerie and therefore we considered it was reasonable to feature a woman in limited amounts of clothing. The ad did not show the model's face, and focused only on her body which was posed
leaning over in a way that emphasised her chest. The ASA considered that the model's pose and the image, combined with the text Tease the season, was sexually suggestive. We considered that, by focusing entirely on the model's body without showing
her head, and in the context of a sexually suggestive pose and byline, the image invited viewers to view the woman's body as a sexual object.
For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women and we therefore considered that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Silks not to use ads that objectified women and that were therefore likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has requested search engines Google and Bing remove some listings and ads for ticketing site Viagogo which controversially features several misleading sales ploys.
ASA today judged the site to be misleading consumers by failing to be transparent about fees, wrongfully using the term official site to suggest it was an authorised ticket agent and falsely claiming it could 100% guarantee entry to events.
The ASA had previously issued a warning to Viagogo about editing such claims on its website and advertising content. However, ASA chief executive Guy Parker said it failed to respond by the 29 May deadline.
The ASA has now referred the Geneva-based company to National Trading Standards (NTS). In addition, it issued requests to search engines Google and Bing to remove any links which would take a consumer through to a page containing non-compliant
NTS has since opened an investigation into Viagogo, which could see the company issued fines or face legal action against staff.
Meanwhile, digital minister Margot James has also urged consumers to boycott the company.
A poster for Don Broco's album Technology , seen in February 2018, included an image of a figure in the style of a religious icon, with the face replaced by a snarling dog.
Two complainants, who believed the image to be of the Virgin Mary, objected that the ad would cause serious offence to Christians.
Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
Exterion Media (UK) Ltd did not believe the ad would cause serious or widespread offence to the public, particularly in the context of the product being advertised.
The ASA was concerned by Sony's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code rule (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA understood that the image in the ad was reminiscent of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, a revered icon of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Christian faith, although it was not an alteration of a specific image. We acknowledged that some
members of the Christian faith would object to the use of the image in an ad, and in particular the replacement of the face with a snarling dog. However, we considered that it was clear the ad was for an album and that the image was being
presented as artwork in that context. We also considered that the image would not be seen as mocking or derogatory towards the Madonna or Christian faith in general, and there was nothing else within the ad which gave that impression. We concluded
that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
ASA's code writing arm, CAP, has launched a public consultation
on a new rule to tackle harmful gender stereotypes in ads, as well as on guidance to advertisers on how the new rule is likely to be interpreted in practice. The purpose of today's announcement is to make public the proposed rule and guidance,
which includes examples of gender portrayals which are likely to fall foul of the new rule.
The consultation proposes the introduction of the following new rule to the ad codes which will cover broadcast and non-broadcast media:
Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
The consultation comes after the ASA published a report last year - Depictions, Perceptions and Harm - which provided an evidence-based case for stronger regulation of ads that feature certain kinds of gender stereotypical roles and characteristics. These are ads that have the potential to cause harm by contributing to the restriction of
people's choices, aspirations and opportunities, which can affect the way people interact with each other and the way they view their own potential.
We already apply rules on offence and social responsibility to ban ads that include gender stereotypes on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and depiction of unhealthily thin body images.
The evidence does not demonstrate that the use of gender stereotypes is always problematic or that the use of seriously offensive or potentially harmful stereotypes in advertising is endemic. The rule and guidance therefore seek to identify
specific harms that should be prevented, rather than banning gender stereotypes outright.
The consultation on guidance to support the proposed new rule change provides examples of scenarios likely to be problematic in future ads. For example:
An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man's inability to change nappies; a woman's inability to park a car.
Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their
romantic or social lives.
An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy's stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl's stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.
An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically "female" roles or tasks.
Ella Smillie, gender stereotyping project lead, Committees of Advertising Practice, said:
"Our review of the evidence strongly indicates that particular forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they
take. The set of standards we're proposing aims to tackle harmful gender stereotypes in ads while ensuring that creative freedom expressed within the rules continues to be protected."
Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal said:
"Amid wide-ranging views about the portrayal of gender in ads is evidence that certain gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm or serious offence. That's why we're proposing a new rule and guidance to restrict particular
gender stereotypes in ads where we believe there's an evidence-based case to do so. Our action is intended to help tackle the harms identified in the ASA's recent report on the evidence around gender portrayal in ads."
A TV ad for a gambling operator, Kwiff Ltd, seen on 2 December 2017 featured a voice-over that stated, Bet on the Ashes with Kwiff and every time you do your odds might get Kwiffed. What does getting Kwiffed feel like? It feels like the end of a
school day. The teacher says no homework tonight. But there was one thing I need you all to do. I need you to pop all these bubbles for me. Do you think you could do that? And that pretty much is what getting Kwiffed on the Ashes feels like.
The ad featured scenes showing grown men dressed in a school uniform and in one particular shot showed a female teacher open a wooden chest which was followed by the men popping some bubble wrap.
1. Three complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it was likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s.
2. One complainant challenged whether the ad featured juvenile behaviour, which was prohibited in gambling ads under the BCAP Code.
1. Not upheld
The BCAP Code stated that ads for gambling must not be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more strongly to under-18s than they
did to over-18s, regardless of when they were broadcast.
The ASA noted that the ad was set in a school classroom and featured men dressed in school uniform. However, the classroom was stylised in an old-fashioned manner and included blackboards and single wooden desks for pupils. We considered that such
an environment did not resemble modern day school classrooms and, consequently, did not reflect youth culture in that respect. Furthermore, the pupil characters in the ad were all grown men and did not feature any children.
Because of that, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to be of particular appeal to under-18s.
The voice-over in the ad stated What does getting Kwiffed feel like? It feels like the end of a school day. The teacher says no homework tonight. But there was one thing I need you all to do. I need you to pop all these bubbles for me. Do you
think you could do that? The ad then showed the men's reactions, who were excited in a childlike manner by the idea of popping bubble wrap. The ad then featured scenes of the men popping bubble wrap with great enjoyment.
We considered popping bubble wrap was mostly enjoyed by young children and therefore concluded that the scenes showing the men popping bubble wrap depicted juvenile behaviour, which was prohibited in gambling ads under the BCAP Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kwiff that their future advertising must not feature juvenile behaviour.
We have today published our Annual Report, Showing More Impact. The report sets out changes in the balance of advertising regulation during 2017, a year which saw a record number of ads amended or withdrawn following ASA action (7,099), as well as
a record number of pieces of advice and training delivered to businesses (389,289).
In total, we resolved 27,138 complaints about 19,398 ads, a 14% increase in cases (meaning ads subject to action) compared to the previous year. The internet overtook TV as the most complained about medium 203 10,932 complaints about 9,951 online
ads (TV: 9,466 complaints about 4,666 ads*). The ratio between internet cases and TV cases remained comparable with the previous year at around 2:1.
We resolved 20,952 own-initiative (compliance) cases, which is further evidence of proactive action to protect consumers. This figure contributed to the record number of ads or ad campaigns that were amended or withdrawn.
Meanwhile, we delivered a record 389,289 pieces of advice and training to businesses during 2017 (a 39% increase from the previous year).
A post on the Facebook page of Suede Bar & Nightclub in Walsall, seen on 19 December 2017, included an
image of two full flute wine glasses with text that read Unlimited BOTTOMLESS PROSECCO For £5. Additional text in the post said Join us for bottomless Prosecco between 10pm and 12am on SATURDAY NIGHT for just 2£5 per person.
A complainant, who believed that the unlimited bottomless prosecco offer was likely to encourage excessive consumption of alcohol, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
Suede Bar & Nightclub did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA was concerned by Suede Bar & Nightclub's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code. Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the
Code. We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that was likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise. The CAP Code also stated that marketing communications which
included a promotion must not imply, condone or encourage excessive consumption of alcohol.
We noted that the offer was available for individuals from 10pm to 12am on the night before Christmas Eve in December 2017, and that it was promoted to celebrate the start of the festive period. We considered that the references to unlimited and
bottomless suggested that there would be an abundance of alcohol available to be consumed in a short period of time. Given that the offer was available within the space of two hours, we considered that the ad was likely to encourage people to
drink as much as they could within that short period of time. In addition, we considered that some readers might associate Christmas with celebrations that involved drinking alcohol and that by promoting an unlimited and bottomless prosecco offer
to mark the start of the festive period, the ad was likely to encourage people to drink excessively during the celebrations, particularly in the context of the offer being available in a nightclub setting on a Saturday night.
For the above reasons, we considered the ad was likely to encourage excessive drinking and lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise. We therefore considered that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Suede Bar & Nightclub to ensure that future ads did not imply, condone or encourage excessive consumption of alcohol and lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise.
An ad for a penis extender by wish.com, seen on 26 November 2017, appeared within the apps Peel Smart
Remote, 2048 and Crazy Cake Swap. The ad featured an animated image of a penis above a second animated image of an extender strap being applied to the penis.
Three complainants challenged whether the ads had been responsibly targeted because they were likely to be seen by children.
ContextLogic Inc t/a wish.com did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
Ketchapp, the publisher of 2048 said that whilst the game had an age rating of four years plus on one app store, the game was not aimed at children. They said that the game was a block puzzle game which required mental calculation and therefore
was not directed at children.
Ketchapp said they had no control over the ad and had little influence over ads that were served to individual players. They said that they could not comment on the content of the ad because they did not develop it. They argued that responsibility
was with advertisers and ad servers to ensure that their ads were suitable for the apps they appeared in.
Ketachapp said that they had taken a number of actions in response to the complaint to prevent similar ads appearing in their apps. For example, they had increased the age rating for all Ketchapp games to 12 years plus and adapted processes to
ensure that the content of the ads were better aligned with the age rating of the app.
Peel, the publisher of Peel Smart Remote acknowledged the complaint but did not provide a substantive response to our enquiries. Zynga, the publisher of Crazy Cake Swap did not respond to our enquiries.
ASA Assessment Complains upheld
The ASA was concerned by wish.com's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our
enquiries and told them to do so in the future.
We understood that Peel Smart Remote was an app which allowed users to control their home electronics. The game 2048 allowed users to play puzzle games and Crazy Cake Swap was also a puzzle game which involved animated cakes. We considered that
given the content of the apps, they were likely to have a broad appeal to all ages including children and therefore any ads that appeared within the apps, should have been suitable for children.
The ad featured an animated image of a penis with an extender strap being applied which we considered to be inappropriate for children to view. Because the ad had been placed in apps that children could be using, we concluded that the ad had been
placed irresponsibly in breach of the Code.
The ad must not appear again in an untargeted medium. We told wish.com to ensure that ads that were inappropriate for children to see were appropriately targeted. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.
An in-app ad and two paid-for ads on Facebook for the e-commerce platform Wish, seen on various dates in November 2017 and
a. The in-app ad featured two products. One was a black cat suit that was shown being worn by a woman who, in one image, was pulling down a zip that exposed the top of her bottom. In the second image, the woman was on all fours with the zip
open, exposing more of her bottom. The second product was a toddler's carrying seat, worn around the parent's waist with a belt. The product was shown with a baby perched on the seat and being worn by a woman. The baby wore a pair of shorts with
a split exposing the baby's bottom.
b. The first Facebook ad contained the same image of the baby in ad (a) to advertise the same product. Next to it was imagery promoting another product, an elastic support which was purported to make the penis appear larger and to be worn
underneath underwear. The ad contained before and after photos that apparently showed the results of using the product by featuring a picture of a man wearing white underwear and drawings that indicated how the product worked.
c. The second Facebook ad again featured the toddler carrying seat with the same image of the baby, but it was not presented alongside products of a sexual nature.
1. One complainant challenged whether ad (a) was offensive and irresponsible because it presented sexualised imagery alongside an image of a baby with its bottom exposed.
2. Another complainant challenged whether ad (b) was offensive and irresponsible for the same reason.
3. A third complainant challenged whether ad (c) was offensive and irresponsible because it contained the same image of the baby as ads (a) and (b).
Shpock, who were responsible for the placement of the in-app ad, said ad (a) violated their policy. They confirmed that they had blocked Wish from advertising through their platform again.
Facebook said ads (b) and (c) were no longer available on their site as they violated their advertising policies.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
There's some weird stuff on wish.com, ASA would have a mass heart attack if they were to take look around
The ASA was concerned by Wish's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, and ruled that they had breached CAP Code. Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code.
(Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future. [wish.com is a US company, headquartered in San Francisco, I don't think they would be much bothered by ASA's PC
1, 2. & 3. Upheld
The image of the baby's bottom being exposed through ripped shorts -- common in all three ads -- appeared to draw attention to it for no reason that was relevant to the product and in a way that we considered was likely to be seen as irresponsible
and offensive by many readers. We also understood that the ad was untargeted.
In relation to ad (a), we considered that to show the shot of the baby's bottom alongside the images of the woman pulling down the zip of the catsuit to expose the top of her bottom and of her on all fours while exposing her bottom through the
slit was likely to be seen as particularly irresponsible and offensive.
In relation to ad (b), we considered that to show the shot of the baby's bottom adjacent to the imagery promoting the product which was claimed to have the effect of making the penis appear larger, along with the before and after photos and the
drawings that indicated how the product worked, was likely to be seen as particularly irresponsible and offensive.
The ads must not appear again in the forms complained of. We told Wish not to feature children in ways that were likely to be seen as irresponsible or offensive.
A video ad for mobile phone retailer, OnePlus, appeared in various online media throughout August and September 2017. The ad started with a shot of a cabin by a lake in the woods and red on-screen text that stated LAKE BLOOD.
A teenage girl was seen reading on the porch of the cabin and looked up to find a masked man holding a chainsaw standing amongst the trees. The girl smiled and raised her smartphone to record the masked man, and whispered Awesome!, as he slowly
came towards her with the chainsaw turning. A teenage boy with blood stains on his clothes and blood pouring down his hands and legs then emerged from the bushes and ran towards the cabin, overtaking the masked man. The boy shouted Go! What are
you doing? Are you insane? What's wrong with you? The boy then knocked the smartphone out of the girl's hands and said to the girl You should be using one of these. as he handed her the OnePlus5. The boy then proceeded to record the masked man
with the smartphone, and encouraged the girl to get in the shot. As the girl posed in front of the masked man, the chainsaw stopped working and the masked man was seen to attempt to start it again. As the masked man managed to start the chainsaw
and raised it above his head, the boy then took a photo on the phone and said There we go. Awesome. The ad then cut to a scene with an image of the smartphone with a photo of the girl posing with the masked man, and text on-screen stated OnePlus 5
Dual Camera. Clearer Photos. The final scene showed the masked man, who was covered in blood, sitting on the porch and taking a selfie with the smartphone, with a chainsaw, a pair of legs and an arm, all covered in blood, next to him.I
The ASA received 28 complaints:
Twenty-one complainants, who believed that the content of the ad was excessively gory, challenged whether the ad was unduly distressing; and
Eight complainants, who believed that the content of the ad was too distressing for children, challenged whether it was inappropriately placed where children might see it.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA understood that the ad was intended to be a parody of horror films. We noted that the narrative of reckless or ignorant American high school teenagers and violent masked murderers, characters that were both featured
in the ad, were well known tropes used in the slasher film genre.
We noted that in the majority of the ad, the scenes showing blood and gore, namely when the teenage boy appeared with dripping blood and a laceration on his leg, were brief and not excessive. We noted that suspenseful and
unsettling music played in the background as the teenage girl encountered the masked man; it was only the scene in which the teenage boy handed the OnePlus 5 phone to the teenage girl that cheerful ukulele music began to play. We noted OnePlus'
comments that, in addition to the change in music, the jovial conversation between the boy and the girl alleviated any tension that had been created in prior scenes prior. Notwithstanding that, we noted that the masked man's menacing laughter and
grunts, as well as the noises from the chainsaw, could still be heard in the background as the ad progressed and as the masked man edged closer to the teenage characters. We therefore considered that the suspense had not been fully assuaged.
In the final scene, the teenagers' bloody corpses were seen to have been strewn on the porch and at the front of the porch; the chainsaw and the masked man were covered in blood, whilst he was taking a selfie. We considered
that some viewers would find the final image excessively graphic, notwithstanding that it was intended to be comedic. We further considered that the contrast in bloodiness and goriness between the preceding scenes, which were moderate, and the
ending scene was unexpected and would be shocking for some viewers, particularly as they might have expected the preceding cut screen, in which an image of the product was shown against a white background, to be the conclusion of the ad. Because
of the unanticipated amount of gore at the end of the ad, we considered that the ad was likely to cause undue distress.
Because of the nature of the ad and in particular its unexpectedly shocking content in the final scene, we considered that some adult viewers would find the ad distressing and in addition, that it was unsuitable for a child
audience. We therefore considered that careful targeting was required to ensure that the ad was only shown to an appropriate audience, for example, to those who had expressed an interest in content aligned with the horror or slasher genre, or
those whose previous activity indicated that they were comfortable with viewing such content. We further considered that the ad should have been targeted in a manner that it did not appear around content that was likely to appeal to children.
However, whilst we noted that OnePlus's media plan targeted audiences above the age of 16, it had not otherwise been targeted towards audiences that were less likely to be distressed by the content, and in one instance the ad was seen by the
complainant's 7-year-old child on a video sharing platform account with parent controls settings in place, before a video that was related to Thomas the Tank Engine.
For the above reasons, we considered that the ad had not been appropriately targeted and was likely to cause undue distress. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told OnePlus to ensure that similar future ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause undue distress to its likely audience.