Universal Pictures has found itself knocked off the ad watchdog’s Christmas list after running a TV trailer for horror movie The Snowman – which featured scenes including a dismembered body and a severed head – before the 9pm watershed.
The film, which could not be more different from the Raymond Briggs animation of the same name, stars Michael Fassbender and follows a detective who tries to find the identity of a killer who uses snowmen as his calling card.
The trailer was cleared by Clearcast with a post 7:30pm scheduling restriction.
However, five viewers took offence at the graphic nature of the trailer, which included scenes of a man finding a dismembered body on a snowy mountainside, a woman getting her leg caught in a bear trap, an image of a severed head with voice-over stating “a head is missing”, and various shots of shooting and explosions.
The complainants believed the ad was inappropriate for children to see, and challenged whether it had been scheduled responsibly.
In its defence, Universal claimed they had requested the agency behind the campaign – The Empire Design Company – to target the ad at 25 to 54 year olds. It also said that, due to the release timing of the film, the campaign had run in full and it had no plans to make use of the ad in future.
Meanwhile, Clearcast said it was clear the ad was a film trailer, and it believed that helped viewers place the scenes in context. In its view the brief, distant and almost clinical nature of the shots lessened their impact and when there was something with the potential to cause upset in viewers, the shots were neither lingering nor gory.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority was having none of it, ruling that, while brief, the combination of the frightening images in succession created an overall sense of escalating fear and menace.
Banning the ad from appearing again before 9pm, the watchdog ruled that the content of the ad was frightening and gruesome to the extent that it was unsuitable for children and younger teenagers.
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