'Bruno' ads too hard for Hong Kong subway

Ad agent rejects risque pun in poster for Baron Cohen pic

HONG KONG -- A promotional poster for "Bruno" has been deemed too risque by an advertising agency that banned the ads from electronic poster spots and billboards in the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway system.

The Sacha Baron Cohen comedy and all its promotional material had been approved by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority, Hong Kong's ratings administrator, with the film rated Category III (restricted to people over 18) and the advertising material rated Category I, suitable for all ages.

The ad agency has taken offense at a term in the film's translated Chinese title, a pun that means both "definitely deceive" and "make hard" in Chinese.

"It's standard practice for us to censor the advertising materials when we receive them, even after they've been approved by TELA. We're uncomfortable with the wordings, and are concerned that it might affect the passengers, so we decided to reject the ad," Amy Chan, deputy managing director of JCDecaux told The Hollywood Reporter. The admittedly "conservative" agency has asked the film's distributor, Panorama, to change the wording, a request the distributor refused to accept.

"It's dangerous for an advertising agency to decide what the public should or shouldn't see," Panorama CEO Alan Fung told The Hollywood Reporter. "They're not in the position to set a standard and override the decision of TELA."

The Chinese "Bruno" posters and ads in question appeared on outdoor bus shelter ad spaces, in cinema lobbies and in newspapers and magazines with nary a protest.

There have been incidences of problematic posters and ad materials in Hong Kong in the past. The poster for Leslie Cheung and Karena Lam's 2002 horror flick "Inner Senses" showed on a billboard at one of the city's busiest traffic intersections, was considered too scary for drivers and taken down.

This year, the poster for French biopic "Coco Before Chanel" showed Audrey Tautou as the chain-smoking fashion pioneer holding a lit cigarette, which violated an anti-smoking law in Hong Kong and had to be altered after it had been displayed in public transport systems across town.