Scary clowns. A bad thing, as most of us can probably agree. But a thing worthy of getting an advertisement pulled by a watchdog agency responsible for monitoring such content? No, apparently. But also kind of. One time, at least. Let’s explain.
The British newspaper Express caught up with the Advertising Standards Authority, an agency in the country that “normally deals with complaints that ads are dishonest or sexist, obscene or harmful,” to discuss the recent uptick in complaints based less on objectionable or harmful material, and more on viewers’ personal phobias. Especially, yes, clowns, scary and otherwise. And the word from the ASA is that the presence of a scary clown — or any other thing that scares you, personally — is probably not enough to get the ad pulled.
They have also received complaints about adverts featuring snakes, spiders and sharks, birds or bees, flying, vomiting, needles and even ‘holes in irregular patterns’ or trypophobia to give it its medical name!
However, the bad news for those who jump out of their skins at the sight of Krusty, Ronald McDonald or any other TV clown is that because a phobia is so personal, ads featuring clowns are not breaking any rules.
Perhaps you remember this general rule from the groundbreaking American case The People v. The Scary Androgynous Stop-Motion Doll/Clown Thingy With The Boot-Wearing Leg For A Penis From The American Horror Story: Freak Show Opening Credits. A hard-fought case defeated on appeal.
There is some good news for the clown-fearers out there, though. Well, good news and bad news. The good news is that the rule is not hard and fast, as one scary clown advertisement did reach a level of harm that required the ASA to step in and have it removed. The bad news is that this is a description of it.
However, the ASA has upheld one complaint about a poster featuring a clown over the past year but this was for a theme park ride and the clown’s face on the poster featuring stitched skin and eyes and dripping blood.
It also featured the slogan ‘Screaming won’t help’ written in blood.
Ah yes, because nothing puts the “amuse” in “amusement park” quite like a bleeding, deformed clown telling you that your cries for help are useless. Bring the kids!