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The Drum

Spooky Spotify ad banned by ASA for scaring kids on YouTube

A pre-roll YouTube ad for music streaming service Spotify has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being “unduly distressing” to younger audiences.

In the ad, three characters play a ‘wakeup playlist’ during breakfast that begins with Camilla Cabello’s recent hit Havana. The ad then showed a horror-style doll awakening in a dilapidated room in the house; which then went on to follow and attack each of the characters whenever the song was played.

The ad ended on a final shot of the doll’s ace, alongside text that read: ‘Killer songs you can’t resist’.

The ASA investigated after finding that the ad had been shown on gaming channel DanTDM, which was deemed to have “particular appeal to children”.

Spotify said that it had taken care that the ad did not cause undue distress and that it had shot the video in way that parodied horror trailers. The streaming brand said, through it use of jump cuts, a bewitched doll and a large, shadowy house, viewers would understand the ad as a spoof. It said that it had included musical and visual cues in the ad prior to the introduction of the doll, so that viewers would be forewarned that the content aped the horror genre.

Spotify also said that the ad was targeted towards adults aged 18-34, was skippable, and that it had applied relevant content exclusions to ensure that it was not shown alongside shocking or graphic content.

However, the ASA said that the ads’ use of horror film tropes implied violence towards the characters in the spot. While “most adult viewers would find the ad overall to be humorous rather than frightening,” the watchdog suggested that children would be distressed by seeing it. It said that the ad “should have been appropriately targeted to avoid the risk of children seeing it.”

The ASA told Spotify that future ads must not distress children, and to ensure that future ads unsuitable for children were appropriately targeted.