The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received 185 complaints about two ads that launched last week, both featuring a scary girl character, with the tagline “Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You”.
The regulator says it is currently assessing the complaints to establish whether there are grounds for launching an investigation.
Members of the public have objected that the ads are unduly scary, are unsuitable for children to see, are scheduled too early and are also frightening for adults. Viewers have also flocked to social networks and the comment pages of the Marketing Week website to complain about the ads.
A full-length 30 second spot was preceded by five “subliminal messaging style” 2-second blip ads, designed as teasers to promote conversation around the new creative.
The spots have a Clearcast rating of post-7.30pm, which Phones 4U said ahead of their launch ensured the company does not break any CAP advertising codes about harming children.
Caspar Nelson, head of brand communications at Phones 4U says: “Advertising with impact will always generate a debate. When you look at the reach and frequency of our Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You campaign, the amount of negative feedback it’s received is barely a drop in the ocean.
“We’ve been tracking online sentiment since the campaign launched on the weekend, and the positive and neutral sentiment far outweighs the negative. The great thing is that the response from our target audience has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re happy with the reaction so far.
“Our viral video is approaching almost 600,000 views on YouTube and in line with our plans. Our second film will air in the coming days, further reinforcing our value message in the same style of humour we’re known for.”
Phones 4U was only last censured by the ASA in September for featuring an image of a grinning Jesus Christ giving a thumbs-up sign in an ad that was deemed disrespectful to Christians and was subsequently banned.
Peugeot had an ad banned earlier this year by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after a child was scared by the spot during a Peppa Pig programme on the Nick Jr channel.