ASA Adjudication on Lions Gate UK Ltd
Lions Gate UK Ltd
60 Charlotte Street
18 January 2012
Number of complaints:
An internet video ad, for the 12A rated film Abduction, was viewed on YouTube on 15 September 2011. It appeared before an animated clip called 'The Duck Song' and included action sequences that involved shooting, vehicle chases, punching, a couple kissing and a man who kicked his way through a glass window. The voice-over stated, "An assassin wants him dead ...", which also appeared in text on screen.
The complainant, whose two-year-old saw the ad, challenged whether it was irresponsible, because she believed it was inappropriate to be shown during a video that was addressed to children.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Lions Gate UK Ltd (Lions Gate) said the film Abduction was rated 12A. They said they expected viewers of YouTube to be aged 13 years or over and that YouTube had accepted the online ad and scheduled its appearances. They said the TV version of the ad had been cleared by Clearcast with an ex-kids restriction and the online version was substantially the same. Lions Gate said they worked hard to avoid causing offence or distress to viewers.
YouTube said they were not able to verify whether the ad had appeared before 'The Duck Song' clip. They said it must have appeared on a YouTube partner page, however, because those were the only pages on which advertising could appear. They said if content on partner pages was flagged as being suitable only for adult users, no ads would appear. YouTube said their terms of service meant that viewers must be aged 13 or over and stated "If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great websites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you". They said if viewers aged under-13 viewed the site regardless, there was a risk they would see content or ads that were not suited to children under the age of 13. They said the exact ads they saw would depend on a number of factors, including whether the parent had signed into their YouTube account before viewing, whether they had enabled 'safe search' on their account and what targeting methods the advertiser had used when they placed their ad.
They said in-stream ads, which appeared at the beginning, at the end, or during the course of content on YouTube, could be served either via the AdWords service or space reserved through the DoubleClick network. If an advertiser chose the AdWords service, they would, for example, select the category of YouTube partner content they wanted the ad to appear against. The category, for example 'pets', was determined by the person who uploaded the video. YouTube said there were other targeting options the advertiser could also select. For the DoubleClick network, the advertiser selected the specific YouTube partner content against which they wanted their ad to appear.
They said there were other methods of targeting for advertisers who wanted their ads to reach as many consumers as possible; for example a banner ad at the top of the homepage or First Watch ads, which allowed advertisers to run an ad so it was seen only once by a user visiting a YouTube partner page on any given day. Those ads could appear on any partner page. However, all advertisers were contractually obliged to make sure the ads were 'family safe' and complied with all terms and conditions and YouTube ad policies, including, for First Watch ads, the more restrictive policy that was specific to the home page. YouTube double-checked compliance with the home page policy before accepting ads via First Watch. They said the Lions Gate ad was placed via First Watch and therefore it could appear to any YouTube user, regardless of whether or not they had logged in. They said they considered the ad to be 'family safe' because although the scenes were cut quickly and much of the filming was dark and suggestive, there was no explicit violence, no blood or scenes of death, no shooting victims (only sounds of shots fired) and no adult language or explicit sexual content.
They said the website was merely a platform and they were not responsible for the content of videos or ads that might appear. It was for advertisers to ensure their ads were targeted appropriately, and partners who did not want ads, including First Watch ads, to appear against content they uploaded did not have to do so. They said they were always willing to listen to comments and suggestions from their users, who could report ads they felt violated their community guidelines or ad policies. YouTube provided further information about their advertising techniques, policies and terms and conditions.
The ASA noted the ad reflected the content of an action film. We considered, however, it included some scenes, in particular those of shooting, explosions and punching, that were unsuitable for younger children. We noted that in order to create a YouTube account, users were required to confirm that they were at least 13 years old. We also noted, however, material on the site could be viewed without logging in and therefore it was not possible to prevent under-13-year-olds from viewing material. We noted that users could also be unaware of that policy. We also noted that information YouTube provided indicated to potential advertisers that, based on US figures from 2010, they understood seven per cent of unique visitors to be aged two to eleven and a further nine per cent to be aged 12 to 17, with those audiences described as having 39% and 61% "Reach of Online Universe" respectively. We acknowledged that data was relevant to a different market but considered it nevertheless indicated that children were likely to view footage, and therefore ads, on YouTube. We noted YouTube offered advertisers the option of 'age-gating' their marketing material, whereby the ad was targeted via the date of birth registration held for users; only users who were logged in and met the relevant age criteria would see such an ad. We considered the 'The Duck Song' clip during which the ad appeared, was likely to appeal to children and noted the ad was served in such a way that it could be viewed by all YouTube users, even if they had not logged in. Because it included scenes that were unsuitable for younger children and it could be viewed by all YouTube users, we considered the ad was inappropriately targeted. We therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 5.1 (Children).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Lions Gate to ensure that future marketing communications addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children contained nothing that was likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm.