Advertising watchdog acts over ‘disturbing’ Blackpool Pleasure Beach ad

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach has been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for an explicit poster likely to frighten children, that was displayed in Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

A digital poster, seen in September 2021 at the Trafford Centre, had an image of a pale face, with yellow eyes, visible cracks on the skin and blood on the teeth and around the mouth. The ad included text that stated “JOURNEY TO HELL FREAK NIGHTS”.

The ASA received 29 complaints.

Twenty six believed the image used in the poster was inappropriate and disturbing for young children, and challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for outdoor display.

Ten of the complainants also challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for outdoor display because they believed that the image would be disturbing for adults.

The Trafford Centre receives more than 35 million visitors a year and the road where the ad was situated is used by thousands more vehicles as a through road to Manchester.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach said the ad was not targeted at children and, due to the location, any children seeing it would have been accompanied by an adult and any viewing of the ad would have been brief.

It explained that the ad was shown at Halloween, recognised within the UK as an annual event and participated in by a wide demographic range, at a time when similar images and themes were displayed in public and was no more likely to cause fear and distress than any other examples.

It believed that the number of complaints received was small for an image that would have been seen by thousands of people from a wide range of demographics, and stated that there had been no intent to cause fear or distress and neither the image nor the wording of the ad offended the general public’s sensitivities.

Perfect Fit Media said they had received three complaints about the ad.

Outsmart said that the ad was not placed near a school and was in keeping with the timing and themes of Halloween. It noted that the image was only mildly scary and was not violent.

The ASA upheld the first complaint, saying: “We considered that the image was likely to distress young children, particularly, but not only in combination with the text “JOURNEY TO HELL FREAK NIGHTS”.

“For those reasons, we considered that the poster was unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium where it was likely to be seen by young children. We concluded that the ad breached the Code.”

However, the second complaint, that the poster could upset adults, was not upheld.

The ASA ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form and told Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ltd to ensure that ads which were likely to cause fear or distress for young children did not appear where they were likely to see it.

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