Youngsters get a fright from Channel 4’s ill-timed zombie ads

Channel 4 has been reprimanded by the ASA for showing ‘unsuitable’ ads for horror TV drama ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ to children.

Fear The Walking Dead – Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Key Art – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned Channel 4 from showing an Amazon Prime advert promoting horror drama Fear the Walking Dead at “unsuitable” times.

The issue surrounds ads seen on Sunday 10 April, which were played during the children’s film Rango at both 5.35pm and 6.40pm. Complaints were made that the ads were “inappropriately scheduled” and caused distress to children.

The ads show scenes from the American zombie series, which is a spin off from the hit show ‘The Walking Dead’. This includes posters of a missing woman, people running in distress, police sirens and a woman shouting “What the hell is happening?”.

A voice-over causes further concern, as it says: “Good morning Los Angeles. Hope you got your flu shot. Reports that a strange virus is going around. If you’re not feeling well, go home and take care of yourself.” A male voice-over then goes on to say: “Fear the Walking Dead season one. Watch and download with Amazon Prime and take the fear with you.”

Channel 4 said it recognised Rango as a film that would appeal to children and as such restricted the advertising shown in and around it to that suitable for children. However, the broadcaster noted that the ad had no time restriction that would prevent it from being targeted at children and that its internal system should have applied an appropriate flag for the ad. It apologised for any distress it may have caused.

Although the ad does not feature any zombies, injuries, violence or people in distress, the ASA rules that the scheduling of the ad breaches advertising rules.

“We considered that the overall content of the ad created a build-up of suspense that could be distressing to younger children, but that would not be unsuitable for older children to see. The ad therefore needed to be sensitively scheduled, as required by the BCAP Code,” the ASA states.

The ASA has told Channel 4 that ads “which were suitable for older children, but could distress younger children” should be more sensitively scheduled in future.

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