Black Phone Television advertising is prohibited by the Advertising Standards Authority

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“I understand advertising for movies like this later on in the evening but so early when young children are still awake is horrible… There should be a screen that displays a warning before something so mature and disturbing plays,” the parent said in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).That person was one of seven parents unhappy with the Universal Pictures NZ television ad, which ran until the company stopped it in July after being alerted to the complaints by the ASA.

After receiving complaints from parents who claimed it terrified, horrified, and distressed their children, a television ad for the R16 movie The Black Phone that featured children with bloodied faces and a boy being locked in a basement by a masked abductor was banned. One upset viewer claimed the ad for the film, starring Ethan Hawke and airing around 7 o’clock, was “incredibly scary and disturbing.”

Highlights

  • M-rated ads can only be played at times or during programmes where parental guidance is recommended – after 7.30 pm or during programming aimed at a non-child audience.

  • In its recently-released decision, the board said the ad contained adult content likely to cause fear and distress in some viewers and found it breached a code of practice requiring advertisers to be socially responsible.Universal said the ad reflected the context of the film – a supernatural thriller with numerous scary and suspenseful scenes. The ad was given an M rating by the Commercial Approval Bureau (CAB) and care was taken in selecting appropriate TV advertising spots.

But the complaints board did not agree images in the ad were clearly supernatural. Instead, it found the ad’ depicted “very realistic” scenes including images of children covered with blood who looked like they had been harmed and what appeared to be a corpse strung up on hooks.

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