The campaign for the film Poltergeist has been cleared for outdoor display after members of the public with a fear of clowns complained that they found it distressing.
A number of people who suffer from coulrophobia – an extreme or irrational fear of clowns – were among the 72 complainants who said that seeing the ad’s image of a scruffy, malevolent-looking clown doll on posters or the side of buses caused them or their children distress.
The ads featured an image of the head of the clown with the tagline: “They Know What Scares You. Poltergeist.”
Twentieth Century Fox acknowledged that the ad had caused upset among some consumers but said it had been approved for display by the relevant agencies.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acknowledged that some children and adults, and those with coulrophobia, found the ad distressing, especially in an untargeted, outdoor medium.
It said: “We noted that the ad had a dark format and the image of the clown starred out from the poster and had a scruffy appearance.
“However, we considered the image was not menacing and noted the ad included no other images that were likely to contribute to such an impression.
“Although we acknowledged that some distress had been caused, because we did not consider that the overall impression of the ads was such that they were likely to cause excessive fear or distress, particularly in the context of an ad for a horror film, we concluded that they were not irresponsibly targeted in outdoor media.”
Poltergeist, released earlier this year, is a remake of the 1982 film of the same name about a family whose home is haunted by evil spirits.