Warner Bros has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for allowing an audio ad for It Chapter Two, a 15-certificate horror film, to be heard during a Spotify playlist that featured tracks such as Children’s Music No.1: I. Lullaby.
The movie, which was released in September 2019, is based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel and concludes the story of a group of children who are terrorised by an evil supernatural entity that takes several forms, including "Pennywise the dancing clown".
The ad features the voice of Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise, saying: "For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you. Oh I missed you." This is followed by the sound of cackling, distorted laughter, before another voice says: "It Chapter Two. In cinemas September 6."
One person complained to the ASA that they had heard the ad during the playlist Classical Lullabies, which they had been listening to with their child, and said the spot was therefore inappropriately targeted.
Warner Bros argued that the ad was only "mildly scary" and avoided violence, offensive language and gore – but also said that it had used Spotify’s parameters "Age is 18-44" and "Real time genre is not children" (also known as "No kids music") to target those between 18 and 44 years old, while avoiding playlists intended for children.
But the watchdog said that the name of the playlist, and its inclusion of tracks titled 5 English Nursery Tunes and For Children Vol. 1, showed that it was designed to be played to young children.
It said that Spotify had not explained why the use of the parameter "Real time genre is not children" had not prevented the ad from being played during this playlist.
The ASA acknowledged that Warner Bros had taken steps to target the ad responsibly, but it had nonetheless been inappropriately targeted and breached CAP Code rules on social responsibility and harm and offence.