Children's TV ban for Lenny Henry 'axe' ad

An advert parodying horror film The Shining in which comedian Lenny Henry attacks a door with an axe was banned during children's programming, a watchdog said today.

The television ad for Premier Inn showed Henry smashing through the door, putting his head through the hole and declaring: "Here's Lenny."

The commercial then showed a smartly dressed Henry calmly saying: "A bad night's sleep at some hotels can really make you grumpy."

Eight viewers, who saw the ad on the children's channel Nick Jr, challenged whether it was suitable for broadcast at times when young people might see it.

Premier Inn Hotels said it had not intended for the ad to be broadcast on any dedicated children's channel and understood that a technical error was to blame.

It said the ad was a "light-hearted parody of The Shining" and it did not believe it would cause the majority of children harm or distress. The scene in which Henry broke down the door with an axe would be considered amusing by most viewers of any age, the company added.

Clearcast, which approves ads for broadcast, said Henry was a household name and people would be used to seeing him acting out different comedy characters, though the reference to the 1980 movie starring Jack Nicholson would be lost on children.

Upholding the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the aggressive behaviour portrayed by Henry and the menacing tone and music were likely to frighten and distress younger children.

The ASA said: "We also considered that, because young children would not understand the ad's reference to The Shining, they would be unlikely to appreciate the comic context in which the menacing Lenny appeared, and could find him threatening."

It ruled that the ad must not be shown again during or around programmes made for or specifically targeted at children.

In a separate ruling, the ASA upheld a complaint by Premier Inn Hotels against rival Travelodge over a national press ad comparing room rates.

Premier Inn complained that Travelodge unfairly compared promotional rates with Premier's standard prices.

Travelodge said an independent market intelligence provider gathered the figures daily for more than 1,300 room prices, including 569 rooms in the Premier Inn chain and 369 Travelodge rooms.

The ASA noted that Premier Inn's lower rates were less likely to be available on their website during the period of the comparison, in particular after the first three days, and were therefore less likely than Travelodge's low rates to have been included in the averages stated in the ad.

Concluding that the ad was misleading, the ASA said: "We told Travelodge to make clear in future when comparisons involving their promotional prices were made against competitors' everyday prices."

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