Seven TV ads for the cinema release of the Conjuring, a certificate 15 film:
a. The first ad featured a tolling bell throughout. Scenes included a girl being invisibly pulled down a bed, a screaming woman lying face down on the floor holding on to a door frame, a girl looking up a dark staircase and a woman lighting a match and screaming when a pair of clapping hands suddenly appeared behind her. Dialogue from the film featured in the ad included "It's latched itself to your family and it's feeding off you", "Look what she made me do", "I see the dark entity that haunts your house", "What we have here is something inhuman" and "It's something that's never walked the earth".
b. The second ad was interspersed with shots of a cinema audience watching and reacting to the film with screams, covering their faces and looking shocked. The ad featured the woman on the floor and the girl being pulled down the bed, as well as a woman being violently pushed into a closed door, a scary doll's face and the sound of a giggling child. Dialogue included "Something awful happened here", "Look what she made me do" and "Oh God!". Menacing music built to a crescendo.
c. The third ad included the scenes of a woman lighting a match and screaming when a pair of clapping hands suddenly appeared behind her and being violently pushed into a closed door. A woman was heard screaming for help.
d. The fourth ad, which lasted 10 seconds, featured a young girl screaming, the woman lighting a match and screaming when a pair of clapping hands appeared, the girl being pulled down the bed and the woman on the floor.
e. The fifth ad had menacing music with sound effects, brief shots from the film including a worried looking woman. Dialogue included "Something awful happened here", "Look what she made me do", "You have a lot of spirits here" and "When the music stops, you see him standing in the mirror behind you".
f. The sixth ad was the same as ad (e), but had text stating "In Cinemas Now" rather than "In Cinemas August 2".
g. The seventh ad, which lasted 10 seconds, featured loud menacing music, a scene of flying bats and a bat crashing into a car windscreen, and a frightened young girl sitting on a bed. Dialogue included "You have a lot of spirits here" and "It's feeding off you".
Ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) were cleared by Clearcast with a post 7.30 pm restriction.
Ads (e), (f) and (g) were cleared by Clearcast with an ex-kids restriction, which meant they should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
Thirteen viewers challenged whether the ads were inappropriately scheduled and unsuitable before 9 pm. Three of the complainants said their children, aged between six and eleven, were frightened by ads (a), (b) and (f).
Warner Brothers Entertainment (Warner Brothers) said the ads were carefully edited to ensure they were suitable for broadcast during programmes aimed at the film's target audience, which was aged 15 years and over, in line with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) classification for the film. They requested broadcasters to transmit the ads during programmes aimed at a 16 to 34 age demographic in order to reach the film's target audience.
Warner Brothers said, rather than using disturbing images or screaming, ads (e), (f) and (g) featured mild scary imagery, tense music and rapidly changing dark scenes in order to alert viewers to the nature of the film. The ads were given an ex-kids restriction to avoid them being shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at children. Nonetheless, they were edited so as not to contain content which would attract the attention of or frighten younger children if they happened to be watching TV when the ads were shown. The scenes featured were dark rather than colourful and lively, with the adults speaking in mundane, dull voices, instead of excited or scary voices. They believed the dialogue spoken by a young girl, "When the music stops you see him standing in the mirror behind you", in ads (e) and (f) was upbeat and not said in a frightened voice. They said the scene of the girl sitting on the bed in ad (g) was brief and dark making it impossible to see her facial expression and the flying bats in the same ad were moving so quickly that they were barely identifiable as bats. They believed the content of ads (e) (f) and (g) were unlikely to cause harm to children or cause serious or widespread offence to viewers generally.
Warner Brothers said the suspense and tension in ads (a), (b), (c) and (d), which were given a post 7.30 pm restriction, had been heightened in comparison to the ex-kids versions by adding more sinister music and some screams, but the ads relied more on suggestion rather than graphic imagery to convey the type of film advertised. They believed the scenes that showed people in distress or fearful, such as the woman on the floor in ads (a), (b) and (d), the close-up of a girl screaming in ad (d) and the audience reaction in ad (b) were dark, making the faces barely identifiable and, because the scenes were brief, did not maintain a level of sustained tension for a period long enough to leave a lasting impression on the average viewer. They believed the ads gave viewers a clear representation of the genre of film allowing them to make the decision as to whether or not they would enjoy the film. They believed the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Clearcast said the ads differed considerably from the versions approved for post 9 pm broadcast and had been significantly edited, with a number of scenes removed altogether, to make them acceptable for the ex-kids and post 7.30 pm versions in order for the film to be advertised at other times of the day. They said this was a normal clearance process, and one they were familiar with, requiring scenes to be toned down until they were suitable for the time of day for when they were intended to be shown, often only relying on music to provide some tension and to make the nature of the film clear to viewers.
The ASA noted ads (e) and (f) included an element of tension created by both the music and the dialogue from the film, but the scenes were nonetheless brief and did not show any violence or specific threat. Ad (g) featured more dramatic and menacing music, but other than the scene of a bat hitting a car windscreen, which was sudden and unexpected, the ad did not feature any graphic or threatening scenes or dialogue. We noted a restriction had been applied to ads (e), (f) and (g) which would prevent them from being broadcast in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children. We acknowledged that some viewers found the ads unsuitable for broadcast when their children were watching during other periods of the daytime, but concluded that the ex-kids restriction was nonetheless sufficient for those ads.
Ads (a), (b), (c) and (d), which had post 7.30 pm restrictions, contained noticeably stronger scenes from the film and the atmosphere of tension and fear was undoubtedly heightened, with scenes of a woman screaming, a girl being pulled down a bed, a woman lying on the floor holding on to a door frame and a pair of clapping hands suddenly appearing. However, although we noted some adult viewers were unsettled or disturbed by the ads and sympathised with their reaction, we nonetheless considered that the ads did not go beyond what viewers would normally expect from ads promoting a 15-certificate horror film and broadcast after 7.30 pm. We considered that the restriction was also sufficient to ensure that the ads would not be broadcast when young children, who might be distressed by them, would be watching. We noted some older children had been upset by ads (a) and (b) but, although we sympathised, their reaction to the ads did not appear to be widespread.
We concluded that all the ads (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) had been appropriately scheduled.
We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.
Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
(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 32.3 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 them in breach.
No further action necessary.