Ad descriptionA poster, two magazine ads and a TV ad for a computer game, Kane & Lynch:
a. the poster was headlined "KANE & LYNCH DEAD MEN"; a quotation identified as being from Official Xbox 360 Mag stated "Grittier and nastier in tone than anything you've seen before, the violence here is visceral, brutal and very, very real." The poster showed two men and a woman. The woman was seated in the foreground; she was gagged and had a tear-stained face. Her head was being held back by one of the men who stood behind her pulling her hair; he wore surgical gloves and was speaking on a mobile phone. He had a plaster across his nose, which appeared broken, and his face was marked with a deep scar. A second man, who held a rifle with his finger on the trigger, stood behind him;
b. the first magazine ad, which appeared as a double-page spread in Edge magazine, showed the same image and quotation as used in poster (a);
c. the second magazine ad, which appeared in Total Film magazine, showed a close-up of the same image as used in ads (a) and (b). The rifle was not shown and the ad did not include the quotation;
d. the TV ad showed scenes involving the two central characters from the game. They were shown shooting guns amongst a group of hostages; one of the characters used the butt of his rifle as a club; although the impact was not shown, a loud crunch was heard. Another scene showed a man with a bloodied face apparently having his throat cut. The voice-over stated "From the creators of Hitman comes Kane and Lynch ... Lynch, a medicated psychopath, Kane a flawed mercenary". The ad continued with various scenes of acts of violence and chaos including shooting and people screaming and running in terror; one of the characters stated "I should regret it all, all the pain I've caused"; it concluded with the image of the two main characters and a voice-over that stated "Kane and Lynch out now for Xbox 360 PSP and PC".
The TV ad was cleared by Clearcast with a post 9 pm restriction.
IssueThe ASA received 26 complaints:
1. The majority of the complainants believed ad (a) was offensive, because it included shocking images, which condoned violence, particularly towards women.
2. Ten complainants felt that the depiction of violence in ad (a) was distressing and unsuitable for children to see.
3. Two complainants believed ads (b) and (c) were offensive, because they included shocking images, which condoned violence, particularly towards women.
4. Two complainants felt that the depiction of violence in ads (b) and (c) were distressing and unsuitable for children to see.
5. Two complainants found the depiction of violence in ad (d) offensive and distressing. They believed the ad encouraged and condoned violence.
Eidos explained that the game was a graphic 18-rated action thriller following two mercenaries, Kane and Lynch, on a mission to recapture a kidnapped family. The 18 certificate had been classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
1. Eidos said the poster had been withdrawn and replaced with an alternative design. They explained that they had intended the image to be cinematic but it was not their intention to cause offence. They said the ad portrayed a scene from the game, a kidnap sequence, but pointed out that the woman was unharmed despite the mouth gag. They believed the scene was vital to the storyline of the game, which was why it formed the main image of the campaign initially.
Clear Channel Outdoor said they had removed the ads as soon as they became aware of any complaints.
2. Eidos did not comment on the posters' suitability for children, but explained that they had been removed immediately when complaints were received.
3. Eidos said they ensured the ads were published only in adult male lifestyle and specialist print publications.
Future Publishing, whose magazines, Edge and Total Film had published ads (b) and (c), said they had not received any complaints directly from readers about the ads. Edge magazine said they felt ad (b) was suitable for their readers, because they targeted a more mature gaming audience. They said Edge was focused on providing extensive news and previews, interviews, developer profiles and recruitment, which were of interest to people directly involved in the games industry. They explained that their most recent demographic survey had shown their audience to be 92% male with an average age of 27 years. They also pointed out that, like most current videogames, Kane & Lynch had a lengthy production schedule and was subject to many previews in magazines and websites and so Edge readers were already aware of the mature content of the game prior to the ad's appearance.
They said, in their view, the ad was cinematic and adult in style and that reflected the game's BBFC 18 certificate; they said the entire campaign was geared towards males 18 to 24 years of age. They explained that the image was deliberately chosen to portray a key scene from the game and the magazines chosen to publish the ad were selected on the basis that their audience was primarily adult and, therefore, unlikely to be offended by it.
Total Film magazine did not comment on ad (c).
4. Eidos said the ads were not intended to be seen by children and were published only in magazines aimed at adults.
5. Eidos explained that the TV ad was designed to be cinematic and to communicate the contrasting characteristics of the two main protagonists. They believed it was more interesting to portray the characters' personalities in the ad in this way than merely to advertise the game with more traditional gunfire and explosions. In their view, based on the subject matter of the game, the ad was not, therefore, overly violent. They acknowledged that there were scenes of gunfire, but argued that that was inevitable in consideration of the ad's context.
Eidos said the ad received a post 9 pm restriction from Clearcast and they had ensured that the restriction had been adhered to. They added that they had even hand-picked TV spots where males aged 18-24 years old were targeted to minimize the likelihood of the ad causing offence.
Clearcast acknowledged that the game itself was violent in nature, but believed the level of violence depicted and suggested in the TV ad was far less than had been demonstrated in the accompanying press and poster ads for the game. They believed, however, in the context of a game of this genre, which involved violent action in a movie-style and gritty, urban reality, the level of violence was not extreme. They said it was clearly a filmic treatment, which did not relate to urban gang warfare or gun and knife crime. They also pointed out that the ad showed no explicit violence and the actions were only suggested. They believed, on balance, while they appreciated that games such as Kane & Lynch were not to all tastes, the level of violence both depicted and suggested did not go beyond that accepted of 18-rated game imagery broadcast with a post 9 pm restriction.
Five said, although the ad had a post 9 pm restriction, it had mainly been broadcast on their platform after 11 pm. They said they had broadcast it on one occasion at 9.20 pm in an interval of the film "XXX2, The Next Level", because the content of the ad was relevant to the violent nature of the film. They said they were very sensitive when scheduling the ad because of its graphic nature and had used great caution to try to minimise offence or upset caused. They apologised, however, for any offence caused by this ad.
Channel 4 apologised for any offence caused and confirmed that the ad was only broadcast after 9 pm in compliance with the restriction applied by Clearcast. They added that 63% of the ad's broadcast was after the later time of 11 pm.
The ASA understood that the image portrayed in ad (a) was a relevant scene from the game. We considered, however, that the portrayal of violence it contained, with particular regard to the female hostage, was graphic and too shocking to be seen in an untargeted medium.
We also considered that text on the poster, which stated "Grittier and nastier in tone than anything you've seen before, the violence here is visceral, brutal and very, very real", in conjunction with the image, which used real characters, was likely to be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence. We concluded that ad (a) was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point, the poster ad breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising), 5.1 (Decency) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour).
We noted the game carried an 18 certificate from the BBFC. We considered that the depiction of violence in ad (a), which showed a gagged woman being brutally handled by two frightening and intimidating looking men, was unsuitable for a poster which would be seen by children. We concluded that it was irresponsible and likely to cause distress.
On this point, the poster ad breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising) and 9.1 (Fear and distress).
We understood the complainants' concern that the image in ads (b) and (c) was offensive and condoned violence. We also appreciated that computer games of this nature were not to everyone's taste.
We noted ads (b) and (c) were published only in adult male lifestyle and specialist magazines, which were geared specifically towards a film and gaming audience. Although we noted the image in the ads was not dissimilar to some of the images shown as part of the editorial content of Edge and Total Film magazines, we considered that the portrayal of violence it contained, with particular regard to the female hostage, was graphic and too shocking to be seen in any medium.
We noted that ad (b) contained the same quotation as the poster "Grittier and nastier in tone than anything you've seen before, the violence here is visceral, brutal and very, very real". We considered that this, in conjunction with the image, was likely to be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence. Whilst we noted that ad (c) did not show the rifle or include the quotation, a close-up of the woman with her head pulled back, mouth gagged and tear-stained face was shown which we considered was also likely to be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence. We concluded that ads (b) and (c) were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point, the magazine ads breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising), 5.1 (Decency) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour).
We understood that some complainants, who considered the image to be distressing, were concerned that ads (b) and (c) could be seen by children. We noted that the demographic profile of the magazines that carried the ads was predominantly adult males and that only a small number of children were likely to have seen the ads. We considered, however, that the graphic and shocking image, which would be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence, was likely to cause distress to some readers and was unsuitable for children to see. We therefore concluded that the placement of the ads was irresponsible.
On this point, the magazine ads breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising) and 9.1 (Fear and distress).
We noted the TV ad demonstrated the action of the game using animated graphic sequences taken from it. We considered, however, that there were some scenes; including that in which a 'crunch' sound was heard as the butt of a rifle was brought down on what was suggested to be a victim's head and another in which a man with a bloodied face appeared to have his throat cut; which we considered were likely to cause offense and distress to viewers despite the animated treatment.
In addition, we considered that the voice-over, which included the statement from one of the characters "I should regret it all, all the pain I've caused", in conjunction with acts of violence and intimidation, which were prevalent throughout the ad, were likely to be seen by viewers as condoning real violence and cruelty.
We acknowledged that efforts had been made by Clearcast and the broadcasters in scheduling the ad to reduce the likelihood of offence being caused, but considered that, with particular reference to the scenes outlined above, it was likely to offend or distress some viewers whatever time it was shown.
We concluded that the complaints could not be resolved with a timing restriction and that the ad should be withdrawn from transmission completely.
On this point, the TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 6.1 (Harm and offence), 6.2 (Harm and offence - Violence and cruelty) and 6.4 (Harm and offence - Personal distress).
The TV ad should not be broadcast again in its current form.
In addition, we told Eidos to ensure that the image used in the poster and magazine ads was not re-used in any medium and advised them to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before publishing future, similar non-broadcast material.