The poster received almost 30 filed complaints
Blackpool Pleasure Beach has come under fire by the advertising watchdog for alleged ‘disturbing’ marketing attempts using a digital poster to promote a Halloween attraction.
The advert featured an image of a ‘screaming’ pale face with yellow eyes, visible skin cracks and blood on the character’s fanged teeth and around its mouth.
It included the text: “JOURNEY TO HELL FREAK NIGHTS.” The digital poster, specifically one outside the Trafford Centre, has received a number of complaints.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said in a published ruling the digital poster was seen in September at the Trafford Centre and received 29 complaints.
The ASA said many of the complainants believed the image used was ‘inappropriate and disturbing for young children’ and challenged whether the ad was ‘unsuitable for outdoor display’.
Complainants also said they believed the image would be disturbing for adults, too.
The ASA said two issues were investigated – one was upheld and one wasn’t.
In its ruling, the watchdog said: “The ASA noted that the face in the ad had a very pale appearance, with cracked skin and yellow eyes, and that its mouth was open, apparently shouting or screaming.
“There was blood around its mouth and its teeth were jagged, suggesting the character had recently bitten something, and overall it had a threatening expression.
“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.”
As a result, the ASA found the ad breached rules around ‘social responsibility and ‘harm and offence’.
But the watchdog said it found the image was unlikely to cause distress to adults, saying the ‘Halloween theme’ would be clear to them.
In response to the ASA, Blackpool Pleasure Beach said the image was displayed at the Trafford Centre, which received more than 35 million visitors a year, and the road where it was situated was ‘used by thousands more vehicles as a through road to Manchester’.
The ad was not targeted at children, they added, 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.’
“They 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,” added the ruling.
“They [Blackpool Pleasure Beach] 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.
“They 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.”
The Halloween attraction at the popular resort was billed as a collection of ‘scare zones, haunted ride areas and outrageous live entertainment’. for over-10s only. Adults had to be with under-16s.
The ASA ruled: “The ad must not appear again in its current form.
“We 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.”
A spokesperson from Blackpool Pleasure Beach said: “Blackpool Pleasure Beach acknowledges the ASA’s ruling on our Journey to Hell outdoor advertising at the Trafford Centre and will follow their recommendations in the future.”