Pre-roll trailers for horror film Insidious: The Last Key have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the watchdog received complaints from parents that the trailers were being shown to children on YouTube.
Ads for the 15-rated film, appearing in late 2017 and January 2018, were displayed before Minecraft videos, resulting in complaints that both adults and children had found the trailers ‘distressing’.
The 15-second spots, which were unskippable for five seconds, featured footage of screaming women, humanoid creatures with talons and grinning, fanged demons which suddenly appeared in front of the camera.
After receiving a number of complaints, the ASA ruled that the ads were “irresponsibly targeted” and “unduly distressing.” The watchdog said that the campaign was “excessively frightening and shocking, and were likely to cause fear and distress… without any justifiable reason”.
Sony Pictures Releasing UK, the distributors of the film, said that the ads had been targeted at adult audiences and excluded audiences below 18 years of age. It said that it had included content exclusions, including negative topic exclusions meant to screen out children’s and family content.
However, the ASA noted that at least one of the complainants’ children had viewed the ad when not signed into YouTube, and that the ads were considered distressing to adults, as well as children. Complaints received by the watchdog claimed that the ads were seen before YouTube content that had been judged to have been suitable for children, including clips from Frozen, and videos of Lego and Minecraft.
A statement from YouTube said that advertisers were responsible for determining the appropriate targeting for campaigns, and that while advertisers could target specific demographics, the platform “did not review ads on behalf of advertisers” to ensure they complied with UK advertising codes.
The ASA told Sony to ensure that future ads were appropriately targeted and that future trailers “did not cause undue distress to their likely audience.”
According to a recent survey from Advertising Perceptions, almost half of advertisers said that YouTube was not doing enough about brand safety issues.