Two TV ads for the cinema release of the film Savages, featuring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Taylor Kitsch:
a. The first ad showed a variety of scenes from the film punctuated with black screens with on-screen text stating the names of the director and cast. The baseline and chorus from the Eminem and Nate Dogg song 'Till I Collapse' played in the background. The scenes included: armed men in balaclavas breaking down a door; Blake Lively blindfolded and being forcibly led by a group of men, Taylor Kitsch saying aggressively to another man "you took our girl"; Blake Lively being punched in the face while men in balaclavas looked on; a masked man running with a raised rifle; a car exploding; Taylor Kitsch punching a man in the face; Aaron Taylor-Johnson with his hands behind his head as if at gunpoint; a close-up of a revolver being loaded; a man running towards another and attacking him; and a shot of John Travolta walking with a raised pistol. In the following three disjointed scenes Benicio Del Toro was shown wielding a gun then shooting it at the floor before a man was shown dragging himself on the floor as if screaming in pain. The last scene showed Blake Lively firing a gun before large on-screen text, on a black background stated "SAVAGES".
b. The second ad featured the same music and many of the same scenes as in ad (a). In addition to those scenes, it began with a female voice-over saying, "It started with three people in love ...". The scenes showed a car arriving at a large house; Blake Lively hugging and kissing Taylor Kitsch and then, in a separate scene, kissing Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The voice-over then said, "... then things just got out of control". Aaron Taylor-Johnson was shown saying "We want out of the dope business". It also showed a close-up of a pistol being fired at a floor and a man dragging himself along a floor, audibly screaming in pain. The following scenes showed a helicopter in flight, Benicio Del Toro firing a pistol and two shots of a masked man with a raised rifle. The following scene showed a close-up of a woman's lips saying "stop" and the music and action scenes stopped. Salma Hayek said, "There's something wrong with your love story baby" and Taylor Kitsch was then shown looking angry before firing a gun. Large on-screen text, on a black background stated "SAVAGES".
The complainant, who had seen the ads before 8pm, challenged whether they were suitable for broadcast at a time when children would be watching.
Universal Pictures International UK & Eire Ltd said the campaign had now run in full and they had no plans to use the ads again in future.
Clearcast said they felt that a post-7.30pm restriction was necessary to avoid children viewing the ads and which would also ensure that they would not be broadcast around programmes watched by young children. They believed that, whilst the ads did show interpersonal and aggressive behaviour shots, they were brief and did not linger. They did not believe that the scenes were graphic or long enough to justify a post-9pm restriction.
The ASA noted that the ads were for a crime thriller and that the cinematic release of the film itself had been passed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) with a 15 certificate.
Both ads featured a number of scenes from the film in quick succession and almost all of the scenes in ad (a) and the majority of the scenes in ad (b) featured physical violence or the suggestion of it. When combined with the strong hip hop song, we considered that the ads conveyed a menacing and aggressive tone. We were particularly concerned that, in one scene, Blake Lively was shown being punched in the face while seemingly unable to defend herself and, in another scene, a man was shown, again defenceless, screaming and dragging himself across the floor apparently having been shot.
Although the ads had been given a post-7.30pm restriction by Clearcast, we considered that the general tone of the ads and those scenes in particular were still likely to cause distress to some younger viewers watching after that time. We considered that the ads should have been given a post-9pm timing restriction to keep them away from times when younger children would be watching. Because they had not been we concluded that the ads breached the Code.
The ads breached BCAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. (Harm and offence) 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).
The ads must not be broadcast again before 9pm.