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ASA Adjudication on Sega Europe Ltd

Sega Europe Ltd

27 Great West Road
Brentford
Middlesex
TW8 9BW

Date:

17 September 2008

Media:

Television

Sector:

Leisure

Number of complaints:

9

Complaint Ref:

56201

Ad

Two TV ads for 'Condemned 2', a computer game:

a. The first ad, which was cleared by Clearcast with a post-9 pm restriction, showed scenes of violence including a man punching another on the floor and blood splattering on the screen as a man was beaten with a club. The scenes were filmed from the view of either the assailant or the victim. On-screen text stated " ... CONDEMNED 2 04/04/08". The ad ended with a close-up of an eye, surrounded by blood, looking through a spy hole. On-screen text stated "CONDEMNED 2 Out Now ...".

b. The second ad, which was cleared by Clearcast with a post-11 pm restriction, was longer in duration. It included the same violent scenes and on-screen text but also included further scenes and a voice-over that stated "Where is former agent Thomas? He must be warned, he must know that it's not over." This time, as the characters fought, noises could be heard which seemed to express pain and the force of their exertions.

Issue

The ASA received nine complaints:

1.  Most of the complainants thought ad (a) condoned violence and was offensive and distressing.  One complainant said the ad was inappropriate for broadcast at any time.

2.  Some of the complainants thought ad (b) condoned violence and was offensive and distressing.  Two complainants said the ad was inappropriate for broadcast at any time.

BCAP TV Code

Response

Sega Europe explained that Condemned 2 was a horror game targeted at mature consumers and had been rated by the British Board of Film Classification as suitable only for people over the age of 18 years.  They said the ads were created to accurately reflect the sort of experience a consumer would have when playing the game.  The scheduling of the ads was planned to comply with post 9 pm and post 11 pm timings and the ads appeared in ad breaks in programmes which Sega Europe considered most suitable for their target audience of consumers aged 18 or over.  Sega Europe believed they had acted as responsibly as possible in the creating and scheduling of the ads.

Clearcast said they had noted, when clearing the ads, that the longer version showed three punches from the first person perspective and a hooded figure holding a brick aloft then bringing it down towards the camera.  They had decided that the longer version needed a timing restriction of post-11 pm because it contained more violence, a more sustained feeling of fear, a quicker paced cutting of scenes and more use of the first person camera than the shorter version, to which they applied a post-9 pm restriction.  They said the shorter post-9 pm ad had fewer disturbing images and less incessant action, and held less suspense than the longer version.

Clearcast argued that neither ad would cause widespread offence or condoned violence and cruelty.  They felt the amount of violence shown was not gratuitous.  They said, however, they had applied strong timing restrictions to the ads to keep them away from a significant number of viewers, because they believed the dark tone, frightening faces and violence could upset small children.  They said they regularly approved ads for films that contained far more violence and fighting and similar dark themes and gave them equal if not fewer restrictions.

Assessment

1. & 2. Upheld

The ASA noted Clearcasts explanation of why they had applied different timing restrictions to the two ads.  We considered, however, that both the post-9 pm and post-11 pm versions showed the same violent images of blood, beating with clubs and punching and that, with the exception of duration, the differences between the two ads were not significant.

We noted the ads were intended to demonstrate the likely experience of a consumer playing the game.  We considered, however, that the ads contained scenes of graphic and brutal violence which, although computer-generated, were realistic in appearance.  We noted in particular that both ads showed a man punching another on the floor and blood splattering on the screen as a man was beaten with a club and considered viewers were likely to find those scenes offensive and distressing and to see them as condoning real violence and cruelty.

We acknowledged that Clearcast had applied timing restrictions to the ads to reduce the likelihood of offence being caused but considered that, with particular reference to the scenes described above, they were likely to offend or distress some viewers whatever time they were shown.

We concluded that the complaints could not be resolved with a timing restriction and both ads should be withdrawn from transmission completely.

The ads breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 6.1 (Offence), 6.2 (Violence and cruelty) and 6.4 (Personal distress).

Action

The ads must not be broadcast again in their current form.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)

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