The ads, each 10-seconds long, featured quick changing scenes shot in the style of video and surveillance camera footage from the Paranormal Activity 3 film (see video below).
The ads interspersed between the characters in the film, one featuring a woman screaming and being thrown violently on to a bed, one depicting young girls screaming and a silhouette of a figure, and another showing furniture being tossed around the room, seemingly by a poltergeist.
Viewers challenged whether the ads were likely to cause distress to both children and adults, with nine of those complainants reporting that their children, aged between 10 and 16 years had been upset by the ads.
The ads were cleared by Clearcast to run after 7.30pm, but viewers also challenged whether the ads should have a post 9pm restriction.
Paramount Pictures said while the ads had the potential to cause distress to some viewers, the short duration of the spots “alleviated” the potential for harm or offence because they did not maintain a level of sustained threat and tension to leave a lasting impression on the average consumer.
The absence of interpersonal violence, gore or monsters meant the vast majority of viewers would be excited by the tone of the ads without exploiting their fears or superstitions as they would know it was a trailer for a thriller or horror movie, the film company added.
The Advertising Standards Authority said although the ads were brief, the general tone was of fear and the way the spots were shot – appearing to be from a home video camera – only increased the threatening overtone.
The watchdog added that although the post 7.30pm restriction had kept the material away from younger children, it noted that older children had been disturbed by the ads, and that a post 9pm restriction should have been applied.