An in-game ad for "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare", an 18-rated video game, which appeared on the "Planet of Cubes" app, included various scenes of violence, including explosions, soldiers firing guns and one scene in which a man was dragged through the air with a grappling hook and punched.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it appeared on an app that might be played by children.
Activision Blizzard UK Ltd said they used an external media agency to vet their content and distribute it through the correct channels and to the appropriate target audience. They said their target audience for the ad was males in the 18−34 age group, so their agency focused on apps that hit that demographic and also users who showed behaviours of being in that audience. They said they prevented Activision Blizzard campaigns from running on children's apps by blocking apps that were commonly used by children from all age-inappropriate campaigns. They said their agency was able to review each app and classify it before blocking each individually. They said that the ad would only have been shown on the app because the user had previously displayed browsing or usage habits of an adult. They said the ad would not have been shown to a user who had displayed the browsing or usage habits of a child, nor would it have been shown to a user with no previous usage habits.
They provided data demonstrating the percentage of users within different age ranges from 18−24 to 55+, which indicated that 89% of users were aged 35−54, and that 95% of users were adults.
Solverlabs also provided the same data relating to the percentage of users within different age ranges, although their data also included figures for 13- to 17-year-olds.
The app was rated on Apple devices as suitable for those aged four years and over, which meant that it should contain "no objectionable material", according to Apple's rating system. The app was rated 'low maturity', on Google Play, which meant it might "contain instances of mild cartoon or fantasy violence".
Although the ASA acknowledged that the nature of the product and the theme of the ad might not appeal to all who saw it, we considered that the scenes of violence were mild, and did not consider the ad likely to cause harm to children. We did not consider the ad unsuitable to be seen by children, and therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.