YouTube showed ghastly horror film advertisements on child-friendly videos, creating
anxiety among the young people, as revealed by the Advertising Standards Authority
Trailers for the horror movie Insidious: The Last Key – rated 15 in the UK and PG-13 in
the US – were advertised before videos about Lego and the Disney featured film
One such advertisement showed a frightened woman lying on the floor smeared in
blood while a humanoid monster slithered towards her and began to pierce her skin
with its long horrific nails.
Another advert was a footage of a screaming women and smirking, sharp toothed
fanged demons, which appeared suddenly in front of the camera.
The Advertising Standards Authority as a step has now banned the adverts following
three complaints it received from concerned parents whose children had seen the
clips, the agency announced this week.
The film's advertiser Sony was blamed by YouTube for the mix-up, while Sony stated
that the video sharing platform's algorithms were the reason behind this mishap.
The Advertising Standards Authority announced, the horror clips, which were not
possible to be skipped for the first five seconds, were 'irresponsibly targeted' and
It stated the ad campaign was 'excessively frightening and shocking, and were likely to
cause fear and distress… without any justifiable reason'.
In late 2017 and January 2018, fifteen-second trailers for the supernatural horror film
were shown before child-friendly videos.
Adverts included clips of the video game Minecraft, which is quite famous among
young people, and also stated instructions on how to build a Lego fire station and
songs from the Disney Movie Frozen.
A video of the cartoon 'PJ Masks', which airs in the US and UK on Disney Junior, also
featured one of the pre-rolls, the Advertising Standards Authority stated.
Columbia Pictures, which trades as Sony Pictures Releasing UK, stated it had
targeted the adverts on YouTube to address the adult audience.
The company stated it had chosen to exclude viewers below the age of 18 and had
prevented the ads being shown before content with unknown audiences.
Exclusions of content suitable for families and keywords with appeal to children should
be targeted, and a layer of safety must be used further by YouTube targeting, the
YouTube told the Advertising Standards Authority that advertisers administered their
own campaigns and were responsible for appropriate targeting and compilation with
Children friendly content was recommended to be displayed through the protected app
YouTube Kids, as it would only display adverts that has been through proper scanning
and review and has been approved as family-friendly.
Upholding the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority said the ads were
excessively gruesome and shocking, noting that three complainants believed the ads
were disturbing enough for adults too.
The ASA finally stated: 'We told Sony Pictures Releasing UK to ensure that future ads
that were unsuitable for viewing by children were appropriately targeted, and that
similar future ads were targeted appropriately to ensure they did not cause undue
distress to their likely audience without justifiable reason.'