Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A video ad for the horror film "Rec: Genesis" played before a teaser video for the film "Man of Steel" on a film news website. The "Rec: Genesis" ad showed brief clips from the film, including a man pushing an industrial hand blender into a male zombie's mouth and a woman cutting into a female zombie's head with a chainsaw. Voice-over stated, "On September 3rd bring home the action-laced, gore-lovin' horror. Rec: Genesis on DVD and Blu-ray September 3rd."
The complainant challenged whether the ad was:
1. irresponsible, harmful and offensive, because it was excessively violent and gory; and
2. unsuitable for a medium where it might be seen by children.
1. & 2. Entertainment One UK Ltd (eOne) responded that the ad was for an 18-rated horror film and contained clips from that film. They acknowledged that some of the scenes were of a gory nature. However, they did not agree that the ad was excessively violent or gory and stated that the target market would not have been offended or upset by its contents.
eOne explained that the ad had been placed on the Empire Magazine website following a brief given to their media agency to target 18- to 34-year-olds in a horror and sci-fi environment. They submitted with their response a data extract showing the demographic for the website's audience. That information demonstrated that 99% of people who used the website were aged 18 or over, and that almost 60% were men. They therefore considered that the film had been appropriately targeted, and said they had not felt it was necessary to place any age restrictions on the ad, because it was highly unlikely it would be viewed by a child.
They said they appreciated that certain parts of the ad might have been distasteful but did not consider that they had breached the CAP Code because of its targeting and because its content was consistent with that of the 18-rated film. They stated that they nevertheless did not intend to show the ad again.
Empire Magazine responded that the ad had been placed on their site as part of a network agreement with a third-party company which sold some of their advertising. They said they had never had to censor film trailers in the past, but having reviewed this ad, agreed that it was not suitable for the website. They stated that as a result of this complaint they had implemented new procedures whereby trailers for 18-rated films now had to be submitted for editorial review to ensure that similar ads did not appear on the site.
The ASA recognised that the ad contained scenes of a violent and gory nature. Although the scenario depicted, whereby zombies had attacked the earth, was removed from reality, the style and setting of the ad was nevertheless realistic and we considered that that amplified the violent nature of the acts shown. We noted in particular that during the scene with the hand blender the camera focused on the character's face and bulging eyes as he was being attacked, and that the final scene showed a chainsaw cutting through the centre of another character's head. We considered that the ad showed particularly graphic violence and, because of that, was likely to cause fear and distress and serious offence to some who viewed it. We therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. and 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and offence).
We acknowledged that in placing the ad eOne had attempted to target a market of 18- to 34-year-olds in a horror and sci-fi environment, and that the statistics provided showed that most users of the Empire Magazine website were adults. However, we noted that the ad had appeared before a trailer for the upcoming Superman film "Man of Steel". We considered that information about that film would appeal to family audiences and as such it was likely to generate interest from younger readers. We also understood that the ad had not been preceded by a warning as to its content, which could have given parents an opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether to show their child the Superman trailer.
We considered that the ad contained a level of violence which would not be suitable for viewing by under-18s, but that no mechanism had been put in place to ensure that it was not shown to them. We further considered that the placement of the ad before a trailer for a Superman film made it particularly likely to attract a younger audience. We therefore concluded that the ad had been inappropriately shown in a medium where it might be seen by children. We welcomed eOne's assurance that they would not use the ad again, and the steps taken by Empire Magazine to ensure that trailers for 18-rated films would in future be more closely scrutinised before publication.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.