'Scary' clown poster for horror film cleared for display

2015 CinemaCon - 20th Century Fox Presentation - Inside

A poster advertising the movie remake of Poltergeist features an alarming clown doll, glaring out of huge posters on billboards and the sides of buses. The text reads: "They know what scares you. Poltergeist". Some 72 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that they or their children found the image upsetting. However, the ASA has ruled that the poster is just scary enough.

A number of those who complained suffer from a general fear of clowns - otherwise known as colrophobia - so any image of a clown was always going to upset them. This image had a particularly striking effect. The complainants suggested that the adverts were not suitable for the kind of audience who would see them on display outdoors in an untargeted way.

Twentieth Century Fox, the company behind the film, said the image had been cleared internally, and by a number of separate departments who considered it suitable for display and unlikely to cause widespread offence.

The ruling
The ASA agreed. It admitted that some children and adults - particularly those with a fear of clowns - had found the image distressing. It also noted that the poster had a dark format and that the clown stared out of the poster and 'had a scruffy appearance'.

However, it concluded: "We considered the image was not menacing and noted the ad included no other images that were likely to contribute to such an impression." As for the scary text, it said : "We considered in the context of ads for a horror movie it was not overtly threatening or suggestive of danger, rather it was likely to be understood by consumers as being a typical reflection of a movie of that format."

Overall it said: "Because we did not consider that the overall impression of the ads was such that they were likely to cause excessive fear or distress, particularly in the context of an ad for a horror film, we concluded that they were not irresponsibly targeted in outdoor media."

Is this right?

The finding is therefore that yes the image was a bit frightening, but that it was bound to be because it was an advert for a horror film - and it didn't go too far.

On social media, opinion is divided. There are those who think that people are complaining over nothing, and in the words of one Tweeter they ought to "grow a pair". Then there were those who were concerned that the ASA had underestimated how disturbing the images were. One wrote: " It's disgusting, my 6 year old saw it on a bus and was very frightened."

But what do you think? Was the ASA right to conclude that horror film posters have to be a bit scary - but that this one was OK? Or have they underestimated just how frightening clowns can be? Let us know in the comments.

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'Scary' clown poster for horror film cleared for display

It's not clear how old the Italian Mediterranean woman is at the helm of her elderly convertible. But clearly by using an olive-oil based spread on her ciabatta, she can still drive at a good clip.

The ageism is more subtle here. Imagine, an older lady still able to drive quickly and competently! And actually enjoying the experience. Sure, it's not offensive as some ageist ads, but it's a tad patronising. Welcome to ad-land.

In the 1930s, anyone more than 40 was definitely middle aged and in need of Phyllosan. Fortifies the over 40s was one of the taglines. Phyllosan ads had the job of informing consumers their pills would restore "digestive and metabolic tone strengthening the nerves and energy."

There's an implied sense of threat here too. The grim-faced doctor won't have much time with a 40-year old male who hesitates to buy this "life-changing" medicament. Be responsible; you're officially middle aged. Buckle down.

Here's another ageist piece of marketing. The hugely cash-generative insurance industry makes a lot of its money out of our own insecurities - and this ad is true to type.

But a few wrinkles are part of ageing. It's not necessarily about being worried. How about laughter lines? Not a pitch that wouldn't have gone down well in a client planning meeting, though given the financial crisis we've been through, some lightening up would have been a useful corrective.

However dreary becoming 40-plus might be, imagine how dire it was to be female and 50. Here, Mrs Georgina Weldon is truly verging on old maid-dom. However thanks to Pears soap, the ad claims her skin is like a 17-year-old.

How many 17-year-olds dressed like that, even in the late 19th century? Mrs Georgina Weldon was, in fact a "real life" case study. She was also a well-known litigant and fighter for female conjugal rights. A clever women also known as 'Portia of the Law Courts'.

But Georgina, that hat...

Now roll forward 120 years to this Dove soap (made by Unilever) ad; it caused a lot of chatter in the US, with the authorities even part-banning the ad. The woman here is not caked in make-up or soap. Although there's probably some touching up done, it's remarkably natural-looking.

Message: it's still okay and attractive to seek older people with no clothes. Too radical for some shocked Americans, though.

Yet some older women - even late middle age, even older - remain beautiful, vigorous and attractive, as in this Age Concern ad. But though you can see Age Concern's point, many old people look old because they are old. Not all older women would want to wear just a black satin bra on the front page of a newspaper.

Does it make us think about age or ageism in a different way? Or is it more she looks good considering she's 60-odd? Age Concern's grey boob.

Or how about this Lucozade ad aimed at older men? You might be pushing 80 but you can still pull if you drink sugar-loaded Lucozade. Pretty crude. This ad apparently was originally shot with an older woman flanked by two semi-naked males.

However the editor of FHM didn't think his mag would appreciate the grey-haired older woman - and asked her to be replaced by a man. Ageist and sexist!

This Spar ad is just awful, isn't it? The husband has lost his wine gums (gums). The wife can't find her ball of wool. But a quick trip - or hobble - to Spar and back and everything is okay. Note husband's gummy smile and wife's dowdy get-up.

The first is a neat little bit of clever reverse ageism from Elizabeth Arden. The woman in the picture is not just married (well, divorced) but dating a man younger than her son. She's independent, confident and apparently in control.

And confident enough to admit the current romantic arrangements.
You could criticise it for reviving the cliche of the fast older woman more interested in sex or shock value. A positive image? Sort of. And some way from the overweight bespectacled country bumpkin we started with.

Lastly, an older, grey-haired woman happy in her own skin complete with studded belt, (hand?) knitted top and punk-style tartan trousers. Let's hope Samsung sold a ton more washing machines through this ad. A confident, modern, energetic older woman. A rare find.


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