Fake troll hunter job advert complaints not upheld by the ASA

A fake job advert placed in the Guardian for troll hunters to promote the Troll Hunter film has been found not misleading and not offensive following complaints that people could mistake it for a real job advert, and that it was offensive to Christians.

The ad was headed "TROLL HUNTERS REQUIRED". Text underneath stated "APPLICANTS MUST HAVE EXPERIENCE OF HUNTING LARGE GAME, MUST BE COMFORTABLE WORKING INDEPENDENTLY AND AT NIGHT. TROLLS CAN SMELL GOD-FEARING BLOOD - CHRISTIANS NEED NOT APPLY. COMPETITIVE SALARY ON COMMISSION. LIFE INSURANCE AND COMPANY LANDROVER INCLUDED. APPLY NOW. VISIT [WEBSITE]". Small text at the bottom of the ad stated "© Troll Security Service (TSS 2011)".

Two complaints were made that by saying Christians need not apply, the ad was offensive to Christians. One of the complainants challenged whether the ad was misleading because it was not obviously identifiable as an ad for a movie and appeared to be a job ad.

Momentum Pictures said that the ad was a teaser for an upcoming movie, adding that mythical stories about trolls told how they were able to smell Christian blood; a theme that featured in the film, similar to that of the giant in the Jack and the Beanstalk tale who was able to smell English blood. It said it was meant in a light hearted way, and that the campaign was amended online to read 'Trolls can smell God fearing blood, believers apply at their own risk', as a means of softening the message.

Momentum Pictures said that, whilst the ad was intended to mock the style of a recruitment ad, it did not intend to mislead people into thinking that trolls were real or that the job of troll hunter existed. It said that upon visiting the website it was immediately apparent that the ad was for a film, with the disclaimer "This is not a recruitment advert" on the website.

The ASA noted that the ad was intended to resemble a fictitious job ad recruiting troll hunters. The body said: “We noted that the theme that trolls could smell Christian blood was a popular one and that it also featured in the plot of the film.

“Whilst we acknowledged that the text "Trolls can smell God-fearing blood - Christians need not apply" might be distasteful to some, we considered that most readers were likely to interpret it as a light-hearted play on the fairy-tale theme of trolls being able to smell Christian blood. We therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

“We noted that the ad was intended to mimic the style of a recruitment ad and we considered that readers would quickly realise that it was not a genuine job ad. We noted that the text "Christians need not apply" was preceded by "Trolls can smell God-fearing blood". We considered that this helped identify the ad as a fantastical and fictional piece. We noted that the ad did not refer to a movie and that the website link in the ad had the word "jobs" in the URL. Nevertheless we did not consider that the average reader would follow the link expecting to arrive at a jobs website. Because of this, we did not consider that the ad was materially misleading in not explicitly stating that it was promoting a movie.”

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