Latest decisions: Horror ads, trial subscriptions, and more

16 November 2023

The following are the latest decisions from the ASA.

Settled Complaints: The advertiser has amended or removed the advertisement after receiving the complaint.

Complaint 23/259 – Melotin NZ, Live Television, Settled
Complaint 23/266 – Universal Pictures, Billboard, Settled
Complaint 23/275 – Huckleberry, Digital Marketing, Settled
Complaint 23/282 – Green Doctors, Website, Settled

Upheld Complaints: The Complaints Board agreed with the complainant that the advertisement breached the Advertising Codes. The advertiser has been asked to remove or amend it.

Complaint 23/249 – Brand Developers, Ltd, Renovator Better Grip, Television, Upheld
Complaint 23/261 – Universal Pictures, The Exorcist, Television and OnDemand, Upheld in Part, Not Upheld in Part

Not Upheld Complaints: The Complaints Board found the ad did not breach the Advertising Codes in relation to the complainant’s concerns.

Complaint 23/197 – Nvidia New Zealand Limited Facebook, Not Upheld
Complaint 23/203 – Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora Smokefree NZ, Television, Not Upheld

No Further Action: The Chair of the Complaints Board reviewed the ad and the complaint, and ruled the issues raised are not a breach of the Advertising Codes.

Complaint 23/252 – Baby Love Images, Out of Home, No Further Action
Complaint 23/260 – One NZ, Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/264 – Family First, Out of Home, No Further Action
Complaint 23/267 – One NZ, Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/268 – Wet & Forget Live Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/270 – TVNZ, 1News, Facebook, No Further Action
Complaint 23/274 – The Opportunities Party – Raf Manji, Unaddressed Mail, No Further Action
Complaint 23/276 – academyX, Digital Marketing, No Further Action
Complaint 23/277 – NZ Labour Party, Print, No Further Action
Complaint 23/278 – Goodman Fielder NZL Limited, Meadow Fresh Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/281 – Mondelez, Cadbury, Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/284 – Beth Shan Funerals, Radio, No Further Action
Complaint 23/287 – Goodman Fielder, Meadow Fresh, Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/288 – IAG, State Insurance, Digital Marketing, No Further Action
Complaint 23/293 – Turners Group, Television, No Further Action
Complaint 23/294 – Harcourts and Gumboot Friday, Print, No Further Action


Complaint 23/152 Appeal 23/005 – The Integrity Institute Print, Television, YouTube, Billboard, Facebook and Website, Appeal Allowed in Part, Dismissed in Part
Complaint 23/078 Appeal 23/006 – Liquor Centre, Out of Home, Appeal Dismissed
Complaint 23/246 Appeal 23/008 – Family First, Billboard, Appeal Declined

Decision Summaries
Each month we summarise two decisions from the above list

Horror movie ads breached Code for inappropriate placement
Complaint 23/261 Universal Pictures, The Exorcist, Television and OnDemand, Upheld in Part, Not Upheld in Part

The placement of three versions of advertisements for the Universal Pictures movie, The Exorcist – Believer, breached the Advertising Standards Code because the confronting advertisements for the horror film screened during programmes suitable for general viewing.

Five advertisements screened across both live and OnDemand television. The advertisements included depictions of young children with bloodied faces, speaking in a demonic manner. The advertisements were classified AO, which prohibits screening before 8.30pm or during programmes aimed at a child audience.

Eleven complaints were received regarding the advertisements. The Complainants were concerned about the placement of the ads given the horror themes depicted. Some Complainants were concerned about the risk of younger viewers seeing the ads, while others said they did not wish to see confronting content when viewing unrelated programmes.

In their responses, the Advertiser and Broadcasters confirmed the AO classification was adhered to with screening time-targeted after 8.30pm. OnDemand screening was age restricted to an 18-44 age login audience who had previously watched similar genres. The Broadcasters, TVNZ and Sky TV, confirmed the advertisement had been played during the PG programme Down for Love, and unclassified programmes ICC Cricket World Cup and the 1News Multi Party Debate, and audience data showed these programmes did not have a significant proportion of children viewing. In addition, the ad had also screened on M, ML or 16L rated programmes.

The Board considered the advertisements and their placement within classified and unclassified programmes. The Board agreed that in the cases of programmes classified as M, and for OnDemand screening, the Advertiser and Broadcaster had employed sufficient safeguards to limit exposure to vulnerable audiences.

In a majority decision, when considering the advertisements’ placement in unclassified and PG programming the Board found that while the ads adhered to the 8.30pm threshhold, they had not been placed with a due sense of responsibility and were likely to cause fear and distress to some audiences.

The Board noted people of all ages find horror content confronting, and agreed the menacing nature of the advertisements required an extra level of targeting around the placement of horror film advertising during some programmes.

The Board ruled the advertisements were not to be used again with similar placement.

Our Check It Before You Release It guide provides our top tips for creating and placing Code compliant advertisements.

Huckleberry ad removed following concerns it misled consumers

Complaint 23/275 Huckleberry, Digital Marketing, Settled

A Huckleberry advertisement has been removed following concerns it misled consumers on the conditions of a trial subscription.

The advertisement for the Huckleberry Organic Fruit and Veg Box included the text “Try your 1st Organic Fruit and Veg Box… $29 for your first box…”

The Complainant was concerned the advertisement was misleading, as it was not clear from the advertisement that the trial required a three-box purchase commitment, including two full price boxes.

In their response, the Advertiser acknowledged the ambiguity around the “try me” phrase and clarified their position around the pricing. The Advertiser confirmed the ad had been removed, and an amended version would be relaunched taking the feedback into consideration.

Given the self-regulatory action of the Advertiser in removing the advertisement, the Chair ruled the complaint was Settled.

Our Get It Right the First Time Guide on Misleading Advertising provides 6 tips for correct ad placement and content.