An internet display ad for MUBI, a movie subscription service, seen on 4 March 2016 on www.independent.co.uk, stated "Cannibal Holocaust Discover Great Films on MUBI" and featured a picture of a man taking a photograph of a blood covered, naked woman impaled on a wooden pole.
The complainant challenged whether the graphic nature of the picture was offensive.
MUBI Europe did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The Independent explained that they required their third-party ad server to block certain categories of advertising from appearing on their website, including ads containing graphic material. They understood that MUBI Europe had incorrectly categorised their ad and consequently the ad server had not prevented the ad from appearing on the website. The Independent said they had blocked MUBI Europe from placing ads on their site in the future.
The ASA was concerned by MUBI Europe’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of the CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We understood that the image featured was a scene from the advertised horror film and was likely to be representative of the film’s content. However, we considered that the degree of violence portrayed went beyond what consumers would normally expect to see in an ad for a film. The image of a blood covered, naked woman impaled by a wooden pole through her mouth, was particularly explicit and the voyeuristic nature of the man taking a photograph of the dead woman added to the overall impression of brutality.
We acknowledged that the ad appeared in error, but nonetheless concluded that the graphic nature of the image was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and was unsuitable for publication on The Independent website.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told MUBI Europe to ensure the images used in their ads did not contain graphic content that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.