Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.
A TV ad for the cinema release of the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was seen on ITV during World Cup Semi-Final coverage at approximately 9.50pm.
A voice-over stated, "And now an exciting look at the must-see movie of the summer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, hitting cinemas next Thursday." The following scene showed an ape approach two men who were sitting on sandbags drinking from metal cups. One man pointed a gun at the ape and he held up his arms in a surrender pose in response before tumbling into forward rolls and clapping as though in a performance. The following exchange between the three characters began good-naturedly, but ended with the ape stealing an automatic weapon from one of the men and shooting the other dead. The remaining man held up his hand with a fearful expression on his face while the ape, now baring his teeth and holding a threatening stance, aimed the gun at him. The ad closed with on-screen text giving the film name as gunfire resounded in the background. The voice-over stated, "That looks incredible. Tell us what you think. Hashtag DawnofApes …"
The ASA received 119 complaints:
1. the majority of the complainants, who believed the ad was inappropriate for children to see, challenged whether the ad was scheduled responsibly;
2. some viewers, who believed the theme and content of the ad was unsuitable for juxtaposition with a mainstream sporting event, challenged whether it was scheduled appropriately;
3. a large number challenged whether the ad was overly violent and distressing; and
4. the remainder of the complainants challenged whether the ad irresponsibly condoned violence and firearm use.
Clearcast and ITV explained that the ad was a one-off exclusive, which sought to promote the release of the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and to engage the viewing audience further through social media interaction.
1. & 2. ITV explained that the ad had been given a post 9 pm scheduling restriction by Clearcast and was broadcast during the half-time break of a World Cup Semi-Final at 9.50 pm. They said the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was rated 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which suggested that a significant number of children were likely to see the film, or already had seen it, in a cinema setting. Having consulted the Audience Index figures for the Semi-Final, ITV were able to confirm that it had not demonstrated particular appeal to children.
ITV believed it was reasonable and proportionate to schedule the ad during such a major sporting event, taking into account the post 9 pm restriction applied, the time it was actually scheduled, 9.50 pm, and the wide adult audience appeal of the match.
3. & 4. Clearcast explained that they had pre-cleared the ad with a post 9 pm restriction as the best possible attempt to avoid harm and distress to younger viewers, while being proportionate with regard to the level of violence in the ad (a later timing restriction would have applied to more violent or distressing material). Although the ad did build in tension, it featured only a very quick scene of gun violence which, they acknowledged was shocking. They pointed out, however, that the film was certified as 12A and the scenes were not akin to certificate 18 material, to which the same scheduling restriction could apply. In their view, the gun violence was not repetitive or gratuitous and the film was clearly a fantasy; the ad showed an ape handling a gun, not a human shooting a man. Given that the only scene of violence took place in the last five seconds of a 70-second ad, the overall creative was not overly violent or distressing and a post 9 pm timing restriction was sufficient to counterbalance the shock value.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA considered that care must always be taken to ensure that ads were suitable for a viewing audience and noted the BCAP Code specified that relevant timing restrictions must be applied to ads that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that were otherwise unsuitable for them. In addition, broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement to avoid unsuitable juxtapositions between ads and programmes.
It was clear from the outset in this example that the ad contained an extract from a forthcoming film and the title of the film was given in voice-over and on-screen text. The opening scenes, involving the clowning antics of a chimpanzee-like character, seemed innocent. The scene quickly developed, however, to the point that there was the threat of gun-use together with atmospheric background music, which built a level of tension and indicated that the content was not as light-hearted as might have first appeared. Despite the escalation of menace, the shooting dead of one of the men was unlikely to have been anticipated and therefore likely to have caused shock to viewers. The ad closed with an ominous scene of the snarling ape purposefully pointing a gun directly at the body of the remaining man, who was seen to be in some shock and fear, and the sound of gunshots, indicating his killing. We considered that the tension of the ad, and the scenes of shooting and personal threat, meant that it was unsuitable for young children.
The film had been categorised as 12A, which meant that it contained material that was not generally suitable for children under 12 years of age. However, children younger than 12 were admitted to a 12A film in a cinema when accompanied by an adult, at the adult's discretion. It was important to recognise, however, that those who chose to visit the film at the cinema were likely to be acquainted with its theme and adults could exercise choice about whether that material was suitable for under-12s in their care, whereas not all TV viewers who had chosen to watch the World Cup Semi-Final would necessarily be aware of, or expect, the content of the ad.
Clearcast had applied a post 9 pm scheduling restriction in recognition of the level of violence in the film clip and we considered that, under ordinary circumstances, this was likely to be acceptable. Audiences beyond 9 pm were likely to be aware that they could be exposed to material, both in programming and advertising content, that was intended for adult viewers and the content in this example, although shocking, in our view was unlikely to cause harm or distress to adults when broadcast at that time. However, the circumstances of this ad were not usual; it was broadcast during a world sporting event, likely to be of more general interest than, for example, regular football fixtures.
The World Cup attracted a large TV audience, but the child audience index did not demonstrate that the Semi-Final had been of particular appeal to children, that is, those under 16 years of age. Within the parameters of child viewers, significantly more appeal was demonstrated to those over 10 years of age than to those under 10, but the number of children viewing in either age group did not compare to the proportion of adult viewers at the time.
While it was unfortunate that any distress was caused to younger viewers who did see the ad, we considered that the scheduling restriction in place, together with the time of broadcast, 9.50 pm, meant that it had been directed away from younger viewers. Older children, although likely to be shocked by the unfolding story of the scene, were likely to understand the extract within the context of the pending cinema release, the content of which had been certified as suitable for over 12s. The match had not demonstrated particular appeal to children of any age and the overall content, which was tense and menacing rather than gory or overly explicit, was unlikely to cause harm or distress to older children watching at that time.
We acknowledged that some adults who were watching the Semi-Final had found the ad to be too graphic even for an adult audience who had chosen to watch a sporting event. While we understood that they were likely to be similarly shocked by the ad's twist, we considered that, in view of the overall content and the brevity of the closing scene, they were unlikely to be distressed by it.
We concluded that the ad had been responsibly scheduled.
On points 1 and 2, we investigated the ad under BCAP (Edition 1) Code rules
Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.
(Harm and offence),
Advertisements that are suitable for older children but could distress younger children must be sensitively scheduled (see Section 32: Scheduling).
(Children) and 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. 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.
3. & 4. Not upheld
The ad built suspense throughout its 70-second duration and contained a 5-second scene at its close that involved an ape shooting two men at close range. The images might have been unnerving, given that they were unexpected, and seemingly at odds with the notion of how an ape might behave. However, while there was an element of terror, the shooting scene was brief and inexplicit. Although our view was that the ad was unsuitable for very young viewers, the level of action and violence it contained was unlikely to cause distress to others, providing that it was broadcast with an appropriate timing restriction. The ad was given a post 9 pm restriction and broadcast at 9.50 pm.
Guns were involved in the entire storyline of the ad. The action was clearly set in a fictional environment and the khaki clothes of the men plus the sandbags on which they sat gave the scene a military feel. We understood that some viewers had found the depiction of firearms in the ad to be irresponsible. However, given the context of the ad as an extract from a fantasy film, we considered that viewers were unlikely to relate the ad to actual crime and real world behaviour.
We acknowledged the reaction of viewers who had found the ad difficult to watch. However, given the content and the timing restriction applied, we considered that it was unlikely to cause undue distress or to be seen as condoning violence or irresponsible firearm use.
On points 3 and 4, we investigated the ad under BCAP (Edition 1) Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility), 4.9 4.9 Advertisements must not condone or encourage violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour. and 4.10 4.10 Advertisements must not distress the audience without justifiable reason. Advertisements must not exploit the audience's fears or superstitions (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.