Out-Law News 2 min. read

ASA examines viewing patterns in video-on-demand adjudication

Regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said that an ad which might have been unsuitable for children could be shown in an on-demand showing of a family programme because few children watched the show.

The ASA based its ruling not on the time that the programme was originally broadcast nor on the family-friendly content of the programme, but on data provided by broadcaster Five which showed that few of the programme's viewers when shown on traditional television were children.

Advertisers have been scrutinised before about adverts that have been shown as part of on-demand programming, where traditional time-based 'watersheds' do not apply.

The ASA has previously said that advertisers and broadcasters must make sure that adverts not designed for viewing by children must not be available to them on on-demand services. The regulator's latest ruling indicates what the basis of future rulings on that issue could be.

Energy drink maker Red Bull produced a cartoon advert which depicted a boy who wanted to go to a "gentleman's club" and connived a way to get his wish.

The advert appeared in episodes of The Mentalist and Antipodean soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away on Five's video on demand (VOD) service.

The ASA received complaints that the ad was offensive because it showed a child in a sexual situation.

The regulator found, though, that the showing of the advert on the VOD versions of the programmes was not to be condemned because of Five data which showed that the programmes attracted few child viewers when shown on normal broadcast television.

"The ASA understood that, according to the information provided by Demand Five, 'Neighbours', 'Home and Away' and 'The Mentalist' were not of particular appeal to children when shown on linear TV," said its ruling. "We considered that children were therefore unlikely to watch those same programmes on VOD and it was therefore unlikely that they would have seen the ad."

"Demand Five said their audience profiles for 'Neighbours', 'Home and Away' and 'The Mentalist' on linear TV during 2010 showed that the child index was low," it said. "They therefore did not expect those programmes as a VOD service to have particular appeal to children either."

The ruling could help broadcasters and advertisers to judge what adverts to place in VOD services.

The ASA has ruled before on how advertising should be controlled in VOD services. It criticised the showing of a trailer for a 15-certificate film during televised talent show The X Factor on ITV's VOD service.

"X Factor itself on the ITV Player was not protected by a restricted content warning, nor was there any warning about the scenes in the trailer," said the ASA ruling in that case. "Because we considered that some scenes in the ad were unsuitable for younger children, as they were likely to frighten them, and because adequate steps had not been taken to ensure that the ad was appropriately targeted around suitable programming, when shown on a VOD service, we concluded that the ad was in breach of the [ASA's] Code."

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