A TV ad for Billie Eilish’s album ‘When we all fall asleep, where do we go?’, seen at around 8.15 pm on 29 March 2019 began with on-screen text that stated the name of the artist while a voice-over said, “This is ‘When we all fall asleep, where do we go?’ the debut album from Billie Eilish”.
The ad featured a series of short scenes which included: a person’s legs from the ankle down, with the toes of the feet dragging along the floor; Billie Eilish with streams of black tears flowing down her face; Billie Eilish in a darkened room with her head being pulled back and forth by several gloved hands; the lower part of a person’s legs hanging in the air and swinging back and forth, seen from below; a person dressed in a gown standing in a darkened corridor; and Billie Eilish in a bright white room with gloved hands ripping a gown off her back. The ad was cleared by Clearcast with an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction, which meant it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
IssueThe complainant, who felt the ad contained distressing scenes including one which featured a hanging body, challenged whether the ad was scheduled appropriately.
ResponseUniversal Music UK Ltd acknowledged the complaint, but did not have any comments. Clearcast believed the ad warranted an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction based on the potential for distress from showing black fluid drain from the singer’s eyes and the tone of the ad more generally. They said the opening shots showed feet levitating across a floor and later in the ad those feet were shown suspended in the air. They believed the ad was similar in tone and visuals to zombie programmes and video games and was worthy of a similar timing restriction.
The ad began with large on-screen text that stated “BILLIE EILISH” and a voice-over which stated “This is ‘When we all fall asleep, where do we go?’ the debut album from Billie Eilish”. The ASA considered it was therefore immediately clear to viewers that the ad related to a new musical release. We considered the tone of the ad was dark and eerie, and that some of the scenes were unsettling. However, the scenes were highly stylised and removed from reality, and we considered they would be understood as creative content from the album’s music videos. In that context, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause fear or distress to adults or older children.
However, we considered the ad’s content was likely to distress younger children. We noted that Clearcast had applied a scheduling restriction which meant it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at under 16s. Although we understood Clearcast could alternatively have applied a stricter scheduling restriction, we had not seen any evidence that it had been broadcast during programming principally directed at, or of strong appeal to, young children. We therefore concluded that the ad had been appropriately scheduled and did not breach the Code. We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 4.10 (Harm and offence) and 32.3 (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.