An in-game ad for Brain Hole Bang app, was seen on 26 January 2022 in a solitaire app. It featured an animation of a man and woman playing ‘rock, paper, scissors’. The woman was dressed in what appeared to be a nurse’s uniform. When the man won two buttons were shown on screen, one with an image of two pointed fingers and the other an image of a woman’s top. The option of two pointed fingers was then selected. In the next scene the woman was seen bent over wearing a short skirt with a heart eyes emoji over her genital area. The man could then be seen poking her in the back of her genital area and in the next scene the same woman was shown grimacing.
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the ad showed a man sexually assaulting a woman, challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible.
Ayoomi Technology Co Ltd did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
Brainium Studios LLC, the developer of the app in which the ad was seen, said that they immediately blocked the advertiser from serving ads in all Brainium games. They had also engaged with the ad network that served the Ayoomi ad to ensure the ad network did everything in its power to avoid a similar situation reoccurring. They confirmed that they had received one user complaint prior to contact from the ASA about the ad. At that time they were unable to identify the ad as they were not provided with sufficient information. When they were able to find the ad it was immediately blocked.
AppLovin Corporation, the ad network that served the ad, stated that their public website set out the content restrictions on any ads served through their platform. Advertisers that used the platform had to agree that ads would follow both the restrictions set by AppLovin and all applicable laws and regulations. Failure to follow these rules have resulted in advertisers’ ads being blocked and/or a ban on their accounts.
AppLovin said that they had taken steps to ensure that the ad complained about did not reappear on any mobile apps that were served via the AppLovin platform. They also warned the advertiser that any future similar ads submitted would result in an account ban.
The ASA was concerned by Ayoomi Technology Co Ltd’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ad featured animated male and female characters playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. As the winner of the game, the male character was presented with options of selecting either two pointed fingers or a cropped close up shot of the female character’s top. The ad depicted the hand gesture being selected. In the next scene the woman was seen bent over wearing a short skirt with a heart eyes emoji over her genital area. The man could then be seen poking her in the back of her genital area and in the next scene the same woman was shown grimacing.
We considered that viewers of the ad would interpret it to mean that the woman had been subjected to a sexual act which she had not consented to, with the male character allowed to violate her as his reward for winning the game. The ad had presented the woman’s top as the other ‘reward’ option, suggesting that he might alternatively have chosen to touch another part of her body without consent.
We considered that overall the ad depicted the woman, in what appeared to be a nurse’s uniform in contrast to the man in everyday clothing, as an object for players to manipulate without consent. By depicting the female character in this way, the ad presented women as stereotyped sexual objects in a scenario designed primarily for the purpose of titillating viewers.
We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious and widespread offence, included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm and was irresponsible.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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 4.9 4.9 Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence?” (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Ayoomi Technology Co Ltd to ensure that their ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, including by objectifying women or presenting gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm. We told them that they must not depict any scenes which featured or implied non-consensual sexual acts. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.