A billboard poster promoting a Halloween event seen on 15 September outside a train station featured text that stated, “COMING THIS OCTOBER TO OVER FARM, GLOUCESTER 5 LIVE HORROR ATTRACTIONS frightmare halloween [sic] festival …” and included images of a man and women wearing prosthetic monstrous make-up. The poster also featured an animated character holding a chainsaw in one hand and a decapitated head in the other.
One complainant, whose child saw the billboard poster and was distressed by it, objected that it was unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium where children could see it.
Over Farm Retail Ltd stated that they had given careful consideration on the type of imagery they wanted to use for their billboard poster, as they did not want it to frighten children, but to make parents aware that the promoted event was not aimed at children. They further stated that the characters featured in the billboard poster appeared at the event and were not as grotesque as some of their other characters.
Primesight agreed with Over Farm Retail’s response and stated that they had made sure there were no schools within close proximity (100–200 yards) to the billboard and that the closest school was over 800 metres away. Furthermore, they stated that they had not received any other complaint regarding the billboard’s content.
The ASA noted that the billboard poster appeared outside a train station and that the complainant’s child had become distressed on seeing it.
We noted that the poster was highly stylised and designed to promote the horror theme of the event. It featured three characters, one of whom was wearing prosthetic make-up that made their skin look deteriorated and had their eyes wide opened with blue lighting being reflected on them. Behind them was another character wearing white make-up on their face with black patches around their eyes and had large teeth sticking out. Another character was shown with an aggressive facial expression and was wearing monstrous make-up and had rotten teeth. Furthermore, there was an animated character holding a chainsaw in one hand and a decapitated head in the other and we noted that the text “LIVE HORROR ATTRACTIONS” was written in red and appeared to be stylised in a blood splattered manner.
While we considered that the content of the billboard poster would not cause distress to older children and adults, it could distress young children. Therefore, we considered that the billboard poster was unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium where it was likely to be seen by young children. We concluded that the placement of the poster breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social Responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Over Farm Retail Ltd that they must ensure that their marketing was responsibly targeted.