Two digital outdoor ads displayed on large screens in two stations in central London, for the film Alien: Covenant, seen in early May 2017:
a. The first ad began with a spacecraft approaching a planet followed by scenes on the planet. In one scene a man in a dark room shined a torch on an alien egg, the top of which began to slowly open. A close-up showed an alien-like mouth
suddenly exploding from it, towards the camera. A woman in distress was then shown running down a corridor, being chase by an arachnid-like alien, followed by a close-up of her screaming. An arachnid-like alien was then shown running towards
the camera. The final shot showed a woman hiding from an alien which was just on the other side of a door frame.
b. The second ad featured large on-screen text which stated in turn: RUN, HIDE, SCREAM and PRAY. The text appeared next to brief clips from the film, including the scene with the woman in distress running down a corridor being chased by an
alien, the alien egg slowly opening, the close-up of the woman screaming, a woman looking panicked and shouting through the glass window in a closed door, the close-up of the alien-like mouth suddenly exploding towards the camera, and the final
shot of a woman hiding from an alien which was just on the other side of a door frame.
Three complainants, one of whose children had seen the ads, challenged whether the ads were likely to cause fear or distress, and whether they were suitable to be shown in an untargeted medium.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA understood the film was rated as a 15 by the BBFC and considered that the advertiser should therefore have taken particular care to ensure that scenes included in the ads would be suitable to be shown in a public space where children
were likely to be present.
The ads contained scenes of characters who were clearly in distress, as well as images of an alien mouth suddenly exploding from an egg out towards the viewer, and a woman being chased by an alien. We considered those scenes were likely to
frighten and cause distress to some children and that the ads were likely to catch their attention, particularly as they were shown on large screens. We concluded the ads were not suitable to be shown in an untargeted public medium and
therefore breached the Code.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Twentieth Century Fox Film Company Ltd to target their ads more carefully in future to avoid the risk of causing undue fear and distress to children.