The spot, created by Lucky Generals, is set in a rural US location and parodies slasher films. It depicts a masked man in a torn and bloodied outfit carrying a chainsaw and slowly approaching a teenage girl, who is sat outside an isolated cabin.
Rather than fleeing, the girl pulls out her phone and starts trying to take a good photo of the man. At this point a teenage boy emerges, covered in blood – and proceeds to criticise her choice of phone, instead recommending the OnePlus 5.
After what appears to be the closing frame, featuring on-screen text, the film briefly cuts to a shot of the masked killer using the phone to take a selfie. Parts of the bloodied corpses of the two teens can be seen in the shot.
Twenty-one people complained that the gory content made the ad unduly distressing while eight challenged whether it had been placed inappropriately placed where it might be seen by children.
The watchdog accepted OnePlus’s response that the ad was tongue-in-cheek, and that the conversation between the two teens alleviated any tension created before that point.
But it said the final scene, which would be unexpected for many viewers, and the unanticipated amount of gore, meant the ad was likely to cause undue distress.
And despite OnePlus stating that its media plan targeted audiences over 16, the ASA said the targeting should have gone further, making efforts to ensure the ad was only seen by people who had expressed an interest in the horror genre, or whose previous activity indicated that they were comfortable with seeing it.
The watchdog also suggested that what targeting was in place had failed – one complainant’s seven-year-old child saw the ad before a video related to Thomas the Tank Engine, on a platform with parental controls in place.
The ASA ordered that the ad must not appear again in its current form.