Warner Bros has been reprimanded after an advert for horror film It Chapter Two played out in the middle of a music playlist of children’s lullabies.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled that the ad on Spotify “was likely to cause distress to young children”, after receiving a complaint.
Featuring a voice-over from the infamous killer clown character Pennywise, the ad was heard between songs in the Classical Lullabies playlist on 28 August last year.
Warner Bros said it had taken steps to ensure the ad was appropriately targeted to over-18s.
Spotify said target parameters used by the film company were appropriate but “they did not believe the playlist was designed primarily for children”, the ASA’s ruling said.
The music streaming firm provided no explanation as to why the ad was played during the playlist despite being targeted to avoid the children genre, the report added.
Beginning with “a cinematic drum noise and a crescendo of high-pitched percussive sound”, the advertising regulator found the ad “immediately created the feeling of suspense”.
“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you. Oh, I missed you,” the Pennywise voiceover said.
The character shouted “in a loud and desperate manner as the ad built to a climax with a sharp snap of a second drum”, the ASA ruled.
The advertising watchdog said Warner Bros had said the ad “might have been perceived as mildly scary” but avoided elements of the film, such as violence, offensive language and gore, which might have been considered “overly scary”.
Acknowledging the film company had taken steps to target the ad responsibly, the regulator concluded that despite this, “because it appeared around content that was likely to be heard by young children, who were likely to be distressed by it, the ad had been inappropriately targeted”.
Upholding the complaint, it has warned Warner Bros to take steps to prevent a similar incident happening in future.