ASA Adjudication on Activision Publishing Inc
Activision Publishing Inc
3 Roundwood Avenue
25 July 2012
Number of complaints:
A TV ad for a computer game opened with on-screen text stating "AM3RICA", followed by computer-generated scenes of New York under military assault, with buildings exploding and catching fire, soldiers loading guns and a submarine firing rockets. On-screen text stated "3NGLAND", followed by scenes of warfare in London, including armed men firing at a lorry until it crashed and a helicopter firing rockets. On-screen text then stated "FRANC3", followed by scenes of Paris under attack, featuring soldiers and vehicles firing weapons. On-screen text then stated "G3RMANY", followed by scenes of tanks driving down the streets, soldiers abseiling down the side of a building, planes firing overhead and a burnt-out building toppling over. A voice-over stated, "The world as you knew it is gone. How far will you go to bring it back?" The ad featured further scenes of armed warfare and destruction, including soldiers firing weapons, military vehicles firing rockets at buildings and explosions. An end-frame stated "CALL OF DUTY. MW3. 08.11.11. Pre-Order Now For XBox 360" and featured the logo for certificate 18. A sound-track featured throughout the ad as well as sound effects for weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a timing restriction such that it should not be broadcast in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to persons below the age of 16 years.
Two viewers challenged whether the ad was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when children would be watching. One of the viewers reported that their children, aged between two and four, had been frightened by the ad.
Activision Publishing Inc (Activision) explained that the ad had been given an ex-kids restriction by Clearcast and that this classification was passed on to their media buying agency and the relevant broadcasters. The ad had been broadcast on Sky Sports 1 at 2.30pm on Sunday 6 November 2011 during a premier league football match. Activision understood the transmission of the ad at this time fell within the ex-kids restriction since it was not broadcast before, during or immediately after a children's programme. They explained that the ad was a specially revised edit to satisfy the ex-kids football spots that were booked as part of the campaign. They said it was a full gameplay ad with all violent and threatening content removed. They said the ad was also rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for in-store use and had been given a PG certificate.
Clearcast explained that several other versions of the ad had been reviewed and had been given a higher restriction than ex-kids. They used these other versions to compare and contrast with the ad when deciding what restriction to award. They believed the ad was very much at the ex-kids end of the spectrum, in line with previous decisions they had made about similar ads.
The ASA understood that the ad had been cleared with a scheduling restriction that meant it should not be broadcast in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to persons below the age of 16 (an ex-kids restriction). We noted that the ad was broadcast at 2.30pm during a premier league football match and that audience index figures showed that a small proportion of viewers were children aged under 16. We also noted Activision's comment that the ad had been given a Parental Guidance (PG) certificate by the BBFC for in-store use, which meant that it had been rated as being suitable for general viewing, although some scenes may not be suitable for young children.
We noted the ad featured computer-generated scenes of warfare in various cities around the world. The ad contained scenes of extensive gunfire, explosions and destruction, and these scenes were accompanied by sound effects of weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting. We also noted the ad featured music in the background which sounded like a low-pitched siren and which added to the dramatic nature of the scenes. We considered that the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children who might see the ad. Although we noted that the ad was only shown during the football, we concluded that it was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when young children might be watching and the ex-kids restriction was insufficient. We considered a post 7.30pm restriction would have been more appropriate.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 5.1 (Harm and offence) and 32.3 (Scheduling).
The ad must not be broadcast again before 7.30pm.