A TV ad promoted Beagle Street life insurance. A man was shown reading a newspaper in the bath. A monster appeared with him and growled, accompanied by the sound of thunder. The monster pointed and laughed uncontrollably at the man as he squirted water at him and threw a rubber duck at his face. The voice-over stated, "Life insurance can be a bit of a nightmare". The man jumped out of the bath and turned to face the monster who was wheezing. The creature was shown to explode with a squelch noise and, in doing so, covered the man in feathers. The monster turned into a smaller, less menacing creature with large eyes, who went on to offer the man a back rub. The voice-over continued, "For life insurance reborn, go to Beaglestreet.com".
The ad was given an ex-kids scheduling restriction, which meant it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
The 102 complainants challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for broadcast at a time when children might be watching. A significant number of the complainants commented that their children or grandchildren, the majority of whom were between two and seven years of age, had been distressed after seeing the ad.
BGL Direct Life Ltd t/a Beagle Street stated that the monster character was intended to represent the nightmare of buying life insurance, but was transformed into a new, friendly character. They said it was not meant to be scary or distressing, and was instead intended to explain the difference between traditional life insurance and Beagle Street in a humorous and light-hearted manner. They said that was demonstrated when the monster made a squelching noise and exploded in a cloud of feathers.
They said the ad had been given an ex-kids scheduling restriction and was aimed at those who were looking for life insurance, and therefore appeared in programmes that were targeted at, or of interest to, adults in their late 20s and early 30s. They were satisfied that the placement of the ad met the requirements of the ex-kids restriction.
Clearcast said they had worked closely with the agency and were aware from script stage that the monster had the potential to scare young children, and so advised that a scheduling or timing restriction might be required. When the ad was completed, Clearcast were of the view that the monster could scare very young children and so applied an ex-kids scheduling restriction to stop the ad from being shown around children's programming. They were aware that this meant the ad would be shown throughout the day, but that if any children were watching adult daytime television, it would be more likely that an adult would be present to reassure their child. They did not think the ad needed a stricter restriction as the monster was not a computer generated image, but a puppet, so slightly rubbery and the overall effect was comedic. The monster was neither gory nor intimidating, and the man in the bath looked initially shocked, then irritated, but never scared. They also highlighted that the monster exploded in a humorous way, which was emphasised with breaking wind sound effects, and that the monster was replaced by a friendly looking creature, so the situation was resolved very quickly. Ultimately, while they accepted that very young children might have found the monster mildly scary, they thought an ex-kids scheduling restriction was sufficient to ensure young children would not see the ad.
The ASA noted that a number of parents and guardians had reported that their children had been upset by the ad. We also considered that the monster character, the concept of which children would be familiar with, would capture the attention of many child viewers and that its sudden appearance could make them jump. As the ad progressed, however, it was clear that the man was in no way either afraid of or threatened by the monster. In addition, we noted that as the monster exploded, with corresponding comedic sound effects, the ad took on a more light-hearted and humorous tone, and in the final scenes the monster was shown transformed into a smaller and more friendly version of its previous self. While we acknowledged that some younger children had found the ad unsettling, we considered that on balance, given the reaction of the man and the comedic elements, the ex-kids restriction was nonetheless sufficient. Therefore we concluded that the ad had been given an appropriate scheduling restriction and was not in breach of the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements that are suitable for older children but could distress younger children must be sensitively scheduled (see Section 32: Scheduling).
(Children) and 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.