This Spotify ad got banned for freaking out kids

Don't be afraid to check it out.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
2 min read

It's a pretty catchy song.

Spotify/Screenshot by CNET

An intense Spotify commercial that aired on YouTube was banned by the UK ad industry's self-policing group for "unduly distressing" children.

The pre-roll ad shows a group of housemates playing Havana, a song by Camila Cabello. The song awakens a frightening, life-size doll sitting in a dilapidated room. It then appears to hunt them down, picking them off one by one.

Despite the knowledge of another potential attack, they can't resist the song's "catchy melody and singalong lyrics," so the doll just keeps coming.

The ad's final image shows the doll's head with the message: "Killer songs you can't resist."

A parent told the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that their child found the ad distressing and that the ad was "irresponsibly targeted" because it aired before videos aimed at children. It appeared on DanTDM, a gaming channel with 20 million subscribers. The ASA issued its ruling on the ad on Wednesday.

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The ASA noted that Spotify argued that the ad was "particularly targeted towards adults aged 18 to 34," using YouTube's targeting tools. According to the ASA, YouTube said that targeting videos appropriately was the advertiser's responsibility.

"We told Spotify to ensure that future ads did not cause distress to children without justifiable reason, and to ensure ads that were unsuitable for viewing by children were appropriately targeted," the ASA concluded.

In an emailed statement, Spotify expressed regret for distress the ad may have caused

"It was created as a tongue-in-cheek horror parody -- intended to be a humorous ad that demonstrated just how catchy some tracks can be," a spokesperson said. "We take our responsibilities as a marketer very seriously and continue to be mindful of the ASA's guidance on the effective and appropriate targeting of advertising campaigns."

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