People Are Increasingly Fearful of Clowns In Ads. Expect to See More In 2016

Because it's the week between Christmas and New Year's and because no one in the advertising industry works during this week...and despite that fact, publishers of industry trade publications insist that news must be published no matter what, we end up with stories about people who don't like to see clowns in ads. Yes, really, it's true.

Many of you are familiar with the UK's Advertising Standards Authority which bans ads based on (often exceedingly few) complaints. Well, the ASA noted this week that many complaints arise from people's personal phobias, particularly fear of clowns. But clown-fearing complainers may not always get the reaction they hope for.

Of the many phobia-based complaints the organization receives, the ASA's ad code division CAP notes: "While phobias are very real for those who suffer from them, it would be fair to say almost any theme or imagery in an ad has the potential to cause a phobic reaction in some. As such and due to the very individual nature of phobias, it is impossible to take all of these into account when creating ads. Bearing this in mind, the ASA is very unlikely to uphold against ads solely on the basis that there's a snake, spider or clown featured in them."



But the ASA did ban one particular clown-themed ad for a theme park which featured a scary looking clown with stitched together skin and blood dripping from its eyes. The ad carried the slogan "Screaming won't help" written in blood. Not exactly the message one wants to read right before boarding a roller coaster.

Of that particular ad, a CAP representative said, "As always, context is key. The ASA isn't likely to stop a horror movie featuring their iconic clown in their ads provided that it isn't menacing, overtly threatening or suggestive of danger. On the other hand, menacing grins, glowing red eyes and blood spattered faces along with stitched up skin, particularly coupled with 'screaming won't help' written in blood is unlikely to be suitable for display in an untargeted medium."

Of course when people complain about a particular ad (think Stoner Sloth) it just means the ad (and the brand behind it) garners more notoriety. And so my prediction for 2016? More clown-themed ads.

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