Two contrary advertising watchdog rulings against the same movie company highlight how video advertising to children is handled differently on TV and the web.
Separate complaints were filed to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against movie studio Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) for advertising around two of its latest releases.
But the ASA accepted ad placement firm Clearcast’s defence that the ad was shown only after 11pm, on UK channel Dave, and so “it was unlikely to promote violence or cause widespread offence to viewers at that time”. So the complaint was not upheld.
Lionsgate told the ASA it expected all YouTube viewers to be aged 13 or over, as stated by YouTube’s terms of service.
YouTube defended by drawing the ASA’s attention to its family-friendly advice and by offering its usual argument that it is “merely a platform and not responsible for the content of videos or ads that might appear”.
But the ASA upheld the complaint against Lionsgate by agreeing that some scenes were inappropriate for children and that YouTube account registration, at which time users supply their age, is not required to use the site.
“It was not possible to prevent under-13-year-olds from viewing material,” the ASA judged.
The cases centre on an interesting challenge to regulators, and a nightmare for parents in the internet age – how do they control what their children can see when the internet, unlike UK television, has no watershed?
In the first case, the post-11pm scheduling for the Conan ad was enough to get Lionsgate off a negative ASA ruling. But services like YouTube do not operate temporal age windows.
Regardless, ASA case research went on to skewer YouTube with its self-contradiction of its own terms of service…
The ASA therefore found that the ad breached two rules in its advertising code and must not be run again (the movie promoted by the ad was from September 2011). It has also reminded Lionsgate to target its ads appropriately. YouTube was not complained about.
But the ASA stopped short of opening a wider discussion – the ongoing quest for an online equivalent to the TV watershed.