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ASA blasts Alien: Covenant for running digital ads that caused 'distress' to kids


By Jessica Goodfellow | Media Reporter

August 15, 2017 | 4 min read

20th Century Fox, the film company behind the Alien: Covenant films, has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for not targeting its advertising properly after two digital outdoor ads for the film were inadvertently seen by children under the 15 rating it had.

Alien: Covenant ads banned after they were inadvertently seen by children under the film rating

Alien: Covenant ads banned after they were inadvertently seen by children under the film rating

The two ads for the film, the sixth installment in the Alien film series, featured scenes in which an alien mouth suddenly explodes from an egg out towards the viewer, and a woman in distress is seen being chased by an arachnid-like alien. In the second ad, the words RUN, HIDE, SCREAM and PRAY are displayed next to brief clips from the film.

The ads were displayed on large screens in two stations in central London in early May 2017.

Three people, one of whose children had seen the ads, lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), challenging whether the ads were likely to cause fear or distress, and whether they were suitable to be shown in an untargeted medium.

20th Century Fox said that JCDecaux UK - the owner of the screens on which the ads were displayed - had restrictions in places for each of their sites to ensure that ads were suitable for the audience passing through that specific public area.

The film company said it relied on media owners to help inform it of what content was suitable for specific sites. It said JCDecaux had not flagged any issues with the ads.

Amendments had already been made to the ads on a different screen in Euston station, after the companies received two complaints from Network Rail.

However, the film was rated as a 15 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The ASA considered that the advertiser should therefore have taken particular care to ensure that scenes included in the ads would be suitable to be shown in a public space where children were likely to be present.

The ASA argued that the ads contained scenes of characters “who were clearly in distress”, and that the scenes were likely to frighten and cause distress to some children.

What’s more, since the ads were shown on large screens, they were likely to catch the attention of children, the ASA argued.

“We concluded the ads were not suitable to be shown in an untargeted public medium and therefore breached the Code,” the ASA said.

The ads have been banned and 20th Century Fox was told to target their ads more carefully in future to avoid the risk of causing undue fear and distress to children.

Advertising ASA Advertising Standards Authority

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