The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has not upheld a complaint against mobile phone retailer Phones 4u, despite its TV ad being the most complained about ad of 2011, it was announced today.
Featuring a ghoulish young girl appearing in a car park in front of an older woman, in what the retailer claimed was a “horror movie parody”, the ad was said to have distressed both children and adults leading to 601 complaints being made to the ASA since it first aired in October.
Phones 4u responded to the complaints, stating that it sought guidance from Clearcast during production to ensure that the ads would not cause harm or offence to viewers and also worked to ensure that younger children would not see the ads.
They also pointed out that those programmes were all broadcast at 9pm or shown around programmes not directed at or likely to appeal to children.
Clearcast responded that they felt that any tension in the ad was dissipated through obvious humour and noted that they had compared its content to trailers for horror and thriller films when researching. It debuted close to Halloween, which Clearcast felt should be taken into consideration, while the featured girl used the well-known “Phones 4 U” hand signal which helped avoid unneccessary tension.
Assessing the complaints, the ASA commented: “We understood that Phones 4 U had intended to draw attention to the offer in the ad by parodying a horror movie.
“We considered..that the content and tone of the message delivered by the little girl alleviated that tension and we noted that the woman in the car did not appear frightened once the little girl had spoken.”
Noting that a restriction had been placed on the ad to ensure that younger children did not see it, the authority concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.