Twentieth Century Fox has been slammed by the ad watchdog for a grizzly digital outdoor campaign promoting the film Alien: Covenant, which exposed young children to graphic scenes from the movie.
Two similar ads, which ran on large screens at two stations in central London, started off harmlessly enough, depicting a space ship circling a planet. But following a shot of an alien egg it suddenly cut to a close-up of a “facehugger” exploding towards the camera.
A woman in distress was then shown running down a corridor, being chased by an arachnid-like alien, followed by a close-up of her screaming. The alien was then shown running towards the camera. The final shot showed a woman hiding from an alien which was just on the other side of a door frame.
Three complainants, one of whose children had seen the campaign, contacted the Advertising Standards Authority and challenged whether the ads were likely to cause fear or distress, and whether they were suitable to be shown in an untargeted medium.
In response, Twentieth Century Fox said that media owners had restrictions in place for each of their sites to ensure that ads were suitable for the audience passing through that specific public area. It relied on media owners to judge what content was suitable.
The screens on which the ads had been shown were owned by JCDecaux UK, but Twentieth Century Fox said the outdoor giant had not flagged any issues with the ads.
Twentieth Century Fox said it had received a complaint directly about the ads as displayed on a different screen at Euston station, which had prompted it to amend them on that screen. It said it would look to amend ads whenever asked to do so.
However, JCDecaux said it believed it was appropriate to run the ads, because it understood the scenes used formed part of TV ads for the film, yet the firm did admit it had made amendments to the ads after it received two complaints from Network Rail.
The ASA was not convinced, however, pointing out that as the film was rated 15 by the BBFC, the advertiser should have taken particular care to ensure that scenes included in the ads would be suitable to be shown in a public space where children were likely to be present.
In its ruling the watchdog said: “We considered those scenes were likely to frighten and cause distress to some children and that the ads were likely to catch their attention, particularly as they were shown on large screens. We concluded the ads were not suitable to be shown in an untargeted public medium and therefore breached the Code.”
Banning the ads, the regulator warned Twentieth Century Fox to target activity more carefully in future to avoid the risk of causing undue fear and distress to children.
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