The Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed 114 complaints made against a TV ad and VOD ad for Hey Habito, an online mortgage broker, seen in January 2020.
a) The TV ad shown in a cartoon style, featured a man viewing a house that was for sale. The man was chased and attacked by a pack of werewolves, who ripped apart his body, exposing his skeleton and internal organs. The man’s dismembered skeleton hand then pressed a button on a mobile phone, which said ‘Habito Go’. The scene changed again as a set of keys flying on wings opened the door to the house, which had a ‘Sold’ sign outside. The voice-over said, “Don’t let anyone else get your dream home. Get ahead of the pack with Habito Go. It’s either Hell or Habito.”
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction, which meant it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
b) The VOD ad was the same as ad (a).
The complainants, who believed that the ads were too graphic to be seen by children, challenged whether the ads were appropriately restricted, as they appeared before 9 pm and during family programmes.
Hey Habito Ltd said that Clearcast had cleared the TV ad with an ‘ex-kids’ restriction, which meant that the ad could not be transmitted in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children under 16.
They had followed the restriction, which also meant that on non-broadcast platforms such as VOD the ad could not be shown in or around programmes which were made for, or specifically targeted at, children. They said their buying strategy actively avoided content that was likely to be viewed by children, on TV and VOD. The content they chose was based on audience viewing figure index data from BARB. They provided details of their VOD buying strategy which set out the interest groups they aimed to reach. The programmes during which the complainants had seen the ad had an older viewing demographic.
Hey Habito said that programmes such as Miss Marple, White House Farm, Granchester and Vera on ITV Hub, and Crazy Delicious on ALL 4, were all broadcast on TV after 8 pm and the majority of those programmes were broadcast after 9 pm. On that basis, the programmes in which the ads were shown had an older target audience and were not programmes which would be categorised as family programmes. They said that it was the broadcaster’s responsibility to exercise reasonable judgement when scheduling ads with an ex-kids programming restriction. They had taken all measures to ensure that their ads were not shown in and around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children and had acted responsibly when doing so.
Clearcast said that the ad was approved with an ex-kids restriction and equivalent VOD advice. They considered the ex-kids restriction was appropriate for the content. The ad was the latest in a series for Hey Habito which had used an over-the-top grisly animation style. Although the ad used gruesome imagery and fearsome sound effects, the animation was also very zany and not realistic. The cartoony effect was similar to the Itchy & Scratchy inserts in The Simpsons, or similar animated programmes. They said the potential distress that could be caused by the ad’s content was balanced by the humorous exaggeration and absurdity of the style used.
Clearcast were content that the style of the ad was acceptable and that any potentially upsetting or scary content was addressed by the ex-kids scheduling restriction, in line with previous ads for Hey Habito. ITV Hub, one of the VOD service providers, confirmed that the ad had not been served in children’s or family programmes or content throughout the campaign period. Grantchester, Miss Marple, Vera and White House Farm were murder mystery programmes, which were often violent. They believed the ad as served on ITV Hub complied with the attributed restriction and targeted adult programming.
All 4, the other VOD service provider, said the ad was served in accordance with Clearcast’s advice. The programme Crazy Delicious was not directly targeted at children. Viewing data also showed that the programme was not of particular appeal to children.
The ad, which depicted the process of buying a property, featured a gory horror sequence in a cartoon format, exaggerated sound effects, and imagery which was fantastical in nature. The ASA considered that it was unlikely to cause fear or distress to older children, but that it was likely to cause fear and be distressing to young children.
The TV ad was subject to a scheduling restriction that prevented it from being shown in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children under 16. The VOD service providers had also used the equivalent restriction when serving the ad in that media. The ASA considered those restrictions were sufficient to ensure that the ad was unlikely to be seen by young children, and it had not seen any evidence that the ad had been broadcast or served against that restriction. The ad regulator therefore concluded that the ad had been appropriately restricted.
The ASA investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 4.1, 4.10 (Harm and offence), 5.1 (Children) and 32.3 (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach. It investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.2 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.