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ASA Adjudication on Paramount Pictures UK

Paramount Pictures UK

12 Golden Square


19 May 2010


VOD (Not Annex)



Number of complaints:


Complaint Ref:



A video-on-demand (VOD) film trailer for the 15-rated film “Carriers”, was seen by the complainant before and during the X Factor final on the ITV Player. The voice-over described life after a virus outbreak and stated “The sick are already dead, avoid populated areas at all cost. You come into contact with other people - assume they have it”. The ad featured survivors wearing masks and carrying weapons, such as a gun, as well as images of body bags piled up and dead people with decayed skin appearing to come back to life.


The complainant objected that the ad was frightening and inappropriate for display during a family programme, because it had distressed his young children.

CAP Code (Edition 11)


Paramount stated that the ad campaign had finished.  There were no plans to repeat the ad.  They said that, on receipt of the complaint, they sought clarification from ITV about when the ad could have been viewed and understood from ITV that, as a general rule, any material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under 18 years of age would not be available unrestricted, and appropriate scheduling and targeting would be applied according to the nature of the content.  Paramount maintained that when they had purchased the ad space, they had done so in good faith and on the understanding that it would be appropriately placed.  They understood that the TV ad had been given a post 9 pm scheduling restriction and they had assumed that the VOD ad would be similarly restricted.

ITV said they had not received any complaints directly from viewers.  They explained that the trailer was for a 15-rated film, and therefore a subjective judgement had been made concerning its availability to those viewing the X Factor on the ITV Player.  They stated that X Factor had wide audience appeal and the final on ITV Player had received 168,000 impressions.  They said the ad was not specifically targeted at X Factor, but received placement across a wide range of programmes available on ITV Player.  They added that ITV was mindful of its social responsibilities, and took its duty in that regard extremely seriously.



The ASA noted the advertisers comments about the physical, mental or moral harm to minors but considered the complaint was about undue fear and distress.  We noted the nature and content of the trailer.  Although we acknowledged that it was representative of the content of the film, we considered that younger children were likely to be frightened by some scenes in the ad, and in particular the scene in which the dead decaying body appeared to come back to life.  We noted that children had seen the ad on the ITV Player.  We noted that if a VOD programme contained adult themes, ITV had safeguards in place to ensure that it could only be accessed if the viewer was over 18 and, in those cases, an on-screen notice warning of the adult content also appeared prior to the start of the programme.  However, we understood that X Factor itself on the ITV Player was not protected by a restricted content warning, nor was there any warning about the scenes in the trailer.

Because we considered that some scenes in the ad were unsuitable for younger children, as they were likely to frighten them, and because adequate steps had not been taken to ensure that the ad was appropriately targeted around suitable programming, when shown on a VOD service, we concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising) and 9.1 (Fear and distress).


The ad must not appear again in its current form.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)

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