A poster and a billboard promoting a Halloween event, seen in Norwich in September 2019:
a. The poster stated “Norfolk’s Biggest Scare Experience…PRIMEVIL…SCREAMING WON’T HELP!” and featured an image of a lumberjack holding a chainsaw and wearing a bloodied hessian mask and apron. Further text stated “Street Performers, Bar, BBQ, Hot Snacks, Live Music, Refreshments” and “17 Nights of Terror – 5 Frightening Haunts”.
b. The billboard contained the same text and image as ad (a).
Three complainants challenged whether they were likely to cause fear or distress for children and were therefore inappropriate for outdoor display.
Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd t/a Dinosaur Adventure said the image in the ad of the lumberjack character with blood on the chainsaw and apron was a cartoon. They said the costume was similar to masks and props readily available in local shops and supermarkets and similar to outfits worn by youngsters who visited households on Halloween. Dinosaur Adventure said the ad was designed following research into the level of horror used by other scary attractions and horror films, and provided examples of advertising of similar events and horror films. They said they had removed the images and replaced them with one without the title character following contact from the ASA.
Clear Channel said the advertiser was responsible for compliance with the Code and that they had not received any complaints directly from the general public.
The ASA noted that ads (a) and (b) had appeared on outdoor poster sites, and that two of the three complainants had reported their children becoming distressed by the image. We acknowledged that Dinosaur Adventure had replaced the ads after having been notified of the complaints. We noted the lumberjack character’s prominence in the ads and the menacing look he gave, baring teeth and showing the whites of his eyes. Alongside the blood-stained apron, chainsaw and mask, we considered that the image was likely to distress young children, and that it was unsuitable for display where it was likely to be seen by them, particularly but not only in combination with the text “PRIMEVIL…SCREAMING WON’T HELP!”, which was presented as though it was written in blood.
Ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.2 (Harm and offence).
Ads (a) and (b) must not appear again in their current form. We told Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd t/a Dinosaur Adventure to ensure that future marketing that was likely to cause fear or distress for young children did not appear where they were likely to see it.