The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received 114 complaints from members of the public about the advert since it was aired on television, and on demand channels, in January.
The ASA said triple figure complaints were rare, which meant it was likely to be one of the most complained about adverts in 2020.
Despite the volume of complaints about the graphic nature of the advert and criticisms that it could be viewed by children, Habito successfully argued the promotion had broken no rules.
The cartoon-style advert shows a man viewing a house for sale. He is chased and attacked by a pack of werewolves who rip him to pieces, exposing his skeleton and internal organs. The man’s dismembered hand presses a button on a mobile phone which says ‘Habito Go’.
When the scene changes, a set of keys flying on wings opens the door to the house which had a ‘Sold’ sign outside.
The voice-over says, “Don’t let anyone else get your dream home. Get ahead of the pack with Habito Go. It’s either Hell or Habito”.
The advert had been approved by Clearcast, an organisation that checks adverts adhere to the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising. Clearcast had marked the advert with an ex-kids restriction. This means it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
This is the third time Habito has successfully defended its adverts, after receiving complaints to the ASA.
In January, the online broker’s ‘Mortgage Kama Sutra’ advert featured suggestive sexual positions. Images of ‘Downpayment Doggy’, ‘The Standing Variable Rate’, ‘Prime 69’ and ‘The Base-rate Scissor’ were among the positions depicted in the promotion.
It used the strapline, “Habito finds you the best deal so you can focus on the fun stuff”.
The advert received complaints for being inappropriate and offensive, but the industry watchdog did not uphold them.
Last year, the watchdog decided not take any action against the digital firm when a broker complained its advert smeared rival mortgage advice firms.
The ad depicted a mortgage customer typing ‘mortgage broker’ into a search tool. The screen burps, then hurls a vomit-like wave of green substance including a pizza slice with the word Jargon written on it into the woman’s face. The ad ends with a voiceover saying: “Looking for a mortgage without the jargon? It’s either Hell or Habito.”
Too graphic for children?
Despite Clearcast’s approval of the werewolf advert, more than 100 viewers thought the advert was too graphic to be seen by children and disputed they had been correctly restricted because it appeared before 9pm and during family programmes.
Habito said it had followed the ex-kid broadcasting restrictions and chosen programmes viewed by an older demographic such as Miss Marple, White House Farm, Granchester and Vera on ITV Hub, and Crazy Delicious on ALL 4. They were all broadcast on television after 8 pm and the majority of the programmes were aired after 9 pm.
Clearcast said the grisly animation style of the adverts, and scary sound effects were not realistic, and were similar to the Itchy & Scratchy inserts in The Simpsons, or similar animated programmes. They said the potential distress that could be caused by the ad’s content was balanced by the humorous exaggeration and absurdity of the style used.
The ASA said the ad, which featured a “gory horror sequence” and exaggerated sound effects and images which was “fantastical”. The ASA did not find any breach of its rules.
Habito has been approached for comment.