Follow the Halloween and Bonfire Night rules or heads will roll

After the final warm flush of summer is over, we start thinking of crisp autumn nights and the excitement of Halloween & Bonfire night.  But there are always potential Code breaches lurking in the dark that marketers should be prepared for.

Gunpower, Treason and Plot

Guy Fawkes’ attempt to assassinate the King at the opening of parliament was well and truly thwarted.  Had he used ads to try and drum up support for an anti-protestant hate campaign today, he would have likely fallen foul of the advertising rules for condoning anti-social behaviour (1.3) and causing offence on the grounds of religion (rule 4.1).  See CAP advice on Offence: Religion and belief to find out where the lines are likely to be drawn (and quartered).

Thanks to Public Information Films from the 1980’s, many of us know that fireworks and sparklers can be dangerous if handled incorrectly.  Featuring people holding lit fireworks, even if they are intended to be hand held, could be considered problematic. Unsurprisingly, depicting alcohol consumption and handling fireworks just doesn’t mix.

It's Fright Night!

It’s a spooky time of year but marketers are reminded to take care with the content of posters and digital outdoor ads, especially when using frightening imagery in this untargeted medium.  In 2019 the ASA upheld complaints about posters ads for a regular Halloween event at a theme park due to the menacing appearance of a character holding a chainsaw.  Conversely, a few years later, a poster ad for the same event resulted in a not upheld decision from the ASA due to the lack of overtly frightening and threatening imagery.

Just because an ad appears in another medium it does not mean that anything goes.  The ASA upheld YouTube pre-roll ads for a horror film featuring frightening images such as a boy crawling across a floor and suddenly grabbing someone’s leg, people dressed in facemasks and bloodstains smeared on a door. Interestingly, the ASA did not uphold complaints about poster ads for the same film due to the different thematic approach that the ad took.

Trick or Treat

We all know that, given the choice we will always opt for the treat and that in most cases it’s going to be something sweet.  There are rules in the Codes about the advertising of HFSS foods including specific rules in relation to  children as well as how ads are targeted

This ASA ruling related to website & social media ads and an on-pack promotion for a panda-themed biscuit which required the purchase of multiple packs of an HFSS product to enter a prize draw. In 2019 the ASA upheld complaints about a poster ad for a chocolate bar and ads for ice-cream because they appeared within close proximity to schools.  If you don’t follow the rules that we have highlighted here, you may well come to a sticky ending! Mwah ha ha ha!! 

Have you got a non-broadcast campaign keeping you awake at night?  Never fear, the Copy Advice team are here to provide free bespoke advice treats – no tricks.

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