ASA bans videogame ad for encouraging violence

LONDON - A TV ad for computer game 'Stranglehold', featuring a prolonged shoot-out between four men, has been banned by the ASA for encouraging and condoning violence.

The ad featured four men in a shoot-out with a voiceover that stated: "Honour is his code. Vengeance is his mission. Violence is his only option. John Woo presents 'Stranglehold'. The next generation of action gaming has arrived."

The on-screen text during the commercial stated: "Not actual game footage" and "John Woo presents Stranglehold", which featured alongside the logo for an "18" rating.

One viewer complained that the ad glorified violence and gun crime and was a dangerous incitement to susceptible people, while a second viewer, whose three-year-old son had seen the ad, argued that it should not have been broadcast before 9pm.

The Picture Production Company, which produced the ad, said it had edited the footage to ensure bullets were seen to be fired into mid-air and did not result in any character or person being shot.

TPPC also argued that it was clear to viewers that the footage was animated game play and not real-life violence. The company had cleared the ad with Clearcast (formerly the BACC) with the restriction that it should not be shown before 7.30pm.

Clearcast said it noted the violent content of the ad when approving it for transmission but considered the violence was stylised, unrealistic and had fantasy quality. Clearcast believed that viewers would see it in the context of a videogame and would appreciate that what was shown was fantasy and did not reflect real life.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the two complaints and banned the ad because it believed the ad was likely to be seen as encouraging and condoning violence.

The ASA said the violence and the almost continuous shooting, although computer-generated, was realistic in appearance. The watchdog said the images, combined with the voiceover, suggested that it was honourable to seek revenge and that violence was an acceptable solution to a situation.

It concluded that the issues raised by the ad could not be addressed with a timing restriction and therefore it considered the only solution was to withdraw the ad from transmission completely.