YouTube has a long, chronicled history of obnoxious, annoying and disrespectful advertisements, but a new viral marketing campaign for The Nun is the last straw for many users.
The Nun is an upcoming horror movie from Warner Bros. Pictures that follows a group sent by the Vatican to investigate a nun’s suicide. It’s designed to creep people out, and like other horror movies before it, the marketing campaign for the film is over-the-top. Its YouTube ad campaign gives users a couple of seconds to turn the volume on their computers down before a grotesque image from the film pops up, accompanied by a large bang and piercing scream. The image only lasts a split second, but it’s enough to catch someone off-guard.
The ad’s done its job. One tweet warning people about the ad has amassed more than 80,000 retweets, with hundreds of people replying to the thread with their own concerns after seeing the ad.
“WARNING! If you see an ad on youtube with the volume sign being turned down and nothing else, it’s a jump scare for the new Nun movie coming out,” the tweet reads. “I advise you look away and/or turn down the volume if you have anxiety or just straight up hate jump scares.”
People on Reddit echoed those thoughts. One person said they were surprised by the image of a tarantula crawling out of a girl’s mouth after clicking on a link for an Offspring music video.
“YouTube should allow you to not see horror movie ads,” one Redditor wrote. “I shouldn’t get nightmares from a comedic video I’m trying to watch.”
Questions are surfacing from concerned users — and parents of kids who watch YouTube and come across the ads — over whether they’re allowed on YouTube.
It’s a complicated answer. YouTube does have advertising policies in place addressing shocking content. The policies state that “promotions containing violent language, gruesome or disgusting imagery, or graphic images or accounts of physical trauma,” and “promotions that are likely to shock or scare” are prohibited. The catch, however, is these policies typically refer to real footage. Clips of crime scene photos or “promotions that suggest you may be in danger, be infected with a disease, or be the victim of a conspiracy” are what YouTube generally considers prohibited advertising content.
It’s unclear if The Nun’s teaser falls into YouTube’s inappropriate advertising category, but Polygon has reached out to YouTube for further clarification.
There are some steps users can take to ensure they don’t see jump scare ads, though. Google, YouTube’s parent company, makes personalized ad choices available to users. They can go through ad settings and enable or disable advertising categories they do and don’t want to see. Horror is one of the choices. If you really don’t want to see anything from The Nun — or any other advertising campaign for horror movies in the future — you can disable that setting.
Update: YouTube removed the ad late Monday night. The company cited policy violations in a tweet.