A TV ad for a discount voucher website featured a group of young women exploring a dark old house. On-screen text stated "50% OFF GHOST TOURS" whilst the girls, who appeared to be frightened, entered a room and saw a pale female ghost with her arms outstretched saying "Wowcher" in an eerie voice. The girls were shown screaming and running from the room. The ghost was then shown looking down at herself with a confused expression. On-screen text stated "80% OFF SPRAY TANS". The ad then showed a woman in front of her laptop and the voice-over stated, "What will make you say 'Wowcher'? Join wowocher.co.uk for free and we'll email you a different deal every day. Get a wow a day at wowcher.co.uk".
Two complainants, whose young children had been upset by the ad, objected that it had been inappropriately scheduled at a time when it was likely to be seen by children.
Wowcher Ltd (Wowcher) said the ad was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek parody of a ghost movie and that it was originally broadcast in the lead up to Halloween. They said they had deliberately chosen music that was more upbeat than traditional atmospheric "horror movie" music and that the ad included a "ping" and the Wowcher rosette logo before the ghost appeared. They said this removed any sense of threat or menace as people were familiar with the Wowcher rosette logo. They said that any tension caused in the first half of the ad (which culminated in the screams) would be dissipated by the comedic conclusion - in particular the second rosette logo "pinging" onto the screen showing that spray tans were available along with the disappointed and confused look on the ghost's face.
Clearcast said the treatment was seen as quite hammy and theatrical in the style of old Hammer Horror films, rather than similar to the content of the contemporary horror film ads to which a timing restriction would normally apply. They also said the on-screen branding in the form of a pink roundel reminded viewers that they were watching an ad and so added to the levity of the scene. They said that because the same participants were shown doing other activities late in the treatment, this was a resolve of sorts which emphasised that nobody was in real terror or danger. It was therefore decided that a timing restriction was not necessary.
The ASA noted the ad presented the ghost, and the girls' reaction to it, in an exaggerated and theatrical way and that it was clear from the presentation that it posed no real threat to them and that they were not genuinely scared. Furthermore, any potential fear previously created from the ghost's initial appearance was removed when the character looked disappointed at its own appearance and the entire image was replaced with bright colours and a woman happily using her computer. We considered that many children would be used to programmes such as 'Scooby-Doo' and therefore considered the comic presentation of ghosts and monsters, and the exaggerated fear of them, was something that they were likely to be familiar with.
Although we acknowledged that some very young viewers might find the theme unsettling, we did not consider that the content or scheduling of the ad was likely to cause distress to children.
We investigated the ad under BCAP 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 32.3 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.
No further action necessary.