The beat goes on: ‘unsettling’ Billie Eilish ad is cleared

Billie_EilishA TV ad for American teenage artist Billie Eilish’s debut album has been cleared by the ad watchdog despite complaints that it was distressing, with even the regulator admitting that “some of the scenes were unsettling”.
The singer and model, who has already appeared in a Calvin Klein TV spot, was promoting her new album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in the ad, which aired at just after 8pm.
It featured scenes from the video for her song entitled “Bury A Friend”, which were more akin to a horror movie trailer than an album release. They included Eilish with streams of black tears flowing down her face, her head being pulled back and forth by several gloved hands, and a person dressed in a gown standing in a darkened corridor and the lower part of a person’s legs swinging in the air as if they had been hanged.
One viewer challenged the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate whether the ad was scheduled appropriately on the grounds that it contained distressing scenes, including a hanging body.
Universal Music UK, Eilish’s label, acknowledged the complaint but did not comment. Ad clearance house Clearcast, meanwhile, conceded the ad was similar in tone and visuals to zombie programmes and video games and was worthy of a similar “ex-kids” scheduling restriction.
In its ruling, the ASA said: “We considered the tone of the ad was dark and eerie, and that some of the scenes were unsettling. However, the scenes were highly stylised and removed from reality, and we considered they would be understood as creative content from the album’s music videos.
“In that context, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause fear or distress to adults or older children. However, we considered the ad’s content was likely to distress younger children.”
The regulator noted that Clearcast’s restriction meant the ad should not be shown in or around programmes made for or specifically targeted at under-16s.
It added: “Although we understood Clearcast could alternatively have applied a stricter scheduling restriction, we had not seen any evidence that it had been broadcast during programming principally directed at, or of strong appeal to, young children.”
The ASA concluded that no further action was necessary.

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