Ad description

An in-app ad for the mobile app game ‘Gold and Goblins’, seen in the ‘Hooked Inc: Fishing Games’ and ‘Quizzland’ apps on 17 September 2021, included a video of a woman playing a game on her mobile phone, while behind her a man picked up a chair and drew it back over his head as if to strike the woman with it. The ad then showed the man looking at the phone over the woman’s shoulder as she continued to play.

Issue

Two complainants, who considered the ad encouraged domestic violence, challenged whether it was offensive and socially irresponsible.

Response

AppQuantum Publishing Ltd said they would immediately stop running the ad across all their platforms. They said they had intended the ad to be humorous in nature, and apologised for any offence it might have caused.

Lion Studios, the developer of ‘Hooked Inc: Fishing Games’, said that they were not affiliated with AppQuantum. They said that they allowed third-party advertisers to publish ads in their mobile app games, which were served programmatically by third-party ad platforms. Lion Studios said they did not review or pre-approve such ads, and believed that the onus was on the ad platforms and advertisers to ensure that ads complied with applicable laws and regulations. They said they had taken measures to prevent it from appearing in their games.

Familia App Developers, the developer of ‘Quizzland’, said that they used third-party software for their in-app advertising, and expected harmful or inappropriate ads to be filtered out by that system. They said that they had updated their settings to block similar ads from appearing in their games in the future.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA acknowledged AppQuantum’s willingness to remove the ad.

The ad depicted a man about to assault a woman, and we considered that consumers would understand from the context of the setting that it was because her attention was focused on the game she was playing, rather than on the man.

We considered that such a reference used in an ad for a mobile app game trivialised and condoned the serious and sensitive subject of domestic violence. This was likely to cause serious and widespread offence, and we considered the ad had not been prepared in a socially responsible manner.

We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Social responsibility),  4.1 4.1 Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.

Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. 
 and  4.4 4.4 Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.  (Harm and offence).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told AppQuantum Publishing Ltd not to trivialise or condone domestic violence in its advertising.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.1     4.4    


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