Spotlight on: Halloween advertising

Oct 6th '22

With Halloween coming up at the end of the month, advertisers may be looking at petrifying promos or spooky specials for their campaigns.


But what is deemed okay when it comes to Halloween advertising? If you’ve got some ads coming out around this time with a play on the Halloween theme – here are some things to keep in mind:


PlacementIt’s important to be mindful of where you’re placing the ad and who will see it.


In 2019, a poster by Roadshow NZ for the horror movie ‘Child’s Play’ showed a picture of a doll with one red eye. The doll was holding a knife, and the text on the poster said: ‘Time to Play.’ The posters were large and displayed in a range of public locations.


The complainant was concerned the ad would be disturbing to children. While Roadshow NZ said it had tried to minimise visibility of the knife and avoid “kid specific” areas for the posters, the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Complaints Board agreed the content and placement of the ad was not socially responsible. It ruled that the ad would cause fear or distress, without justification.


TimingThe timing of when the ad will be shown and to what audiences is also important to consider.


In 2016, MyRepublic did a Halloween-special mail campaign for an internet broadband package. The pamphlet had an image of a smartly dressed man with his hands on a laptop, lying in a coffin with the words “lol in peace” and “Sign up to be in to win this fully pimped internet ready coffin.” The coffin contained various electronic gear. The ASA received a complaint that the ad would be very upsetting to many people, especially to people who had recently lost a loved one. The Complaints Board agreed it could have upset people who had recently suffered a bereavement, however acknowledged the advertiser had tried not to not to send the promo to some of these households by checking the mailing data against recent deaths. While maybe questionable in taste, the board didn’t think it breached the code.


ContentConsider how consumers will feel about the content, and whether it is likely to cause fear, distress, or offence.


Complaints for a TV promo for the movie ‘The Black Phone’ were upheld this year following concerns about adult content of the ad. The Complaints Board said the realistic nature of the ad exacerbated the issue of an appropriate viewing audience. Scenes from the film were shown in the ad, including showing a child being locked in a basement by an abductor who wears a series of horror masks and shots of other children with bloody faces. The Complaints Board agreed with the complainants that the ad would likely cause fear and distress to some viewers.


However, complaints about the out-of-home promos for the film were not upheld. The Complaints Board said the image of a man wearing a Halloween-type mask and a hat, without any other detail about the film, was unlikely to cause fear or distress to most consumers.


Source: ASA


About the New Zealand ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is an organisation that investigates breaches of advertising standards in New Zealand. The ASA provides a free complaints process for consumers about the content and placement of advertisements. In assessing complaints, the ASA apply the ASA Advertising Codes.


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