Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A pre-roll ad on YouTube for the online game King’s Throne Game of Lust, seen on 31 December 2020, featured two animated female characters, wearing see-through lingerie with their breasts partially exposed, bouncing along to music. The ad then cut to a character from the game twirling and blowing a kiss to the screen. The ad was seen before a Star Wars™ figurine painting guide video.
The complainant, who believed the ad was sexually explicit and objectified women, challenged whether the ad:
1. was offensive and irresponsible:
2. had been irresponsibly targeted: and
3. was misleading because it was not representative of the content of the game.
GOAT Company Ltd did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.Assessment
The ASA was concerned by GOAT Company 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 provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ad, which was for an online game about medieval royal life as a King, featured two animated female characters, with their breasts partially exposed, bouncing along to music. We considered that the ad objectified and stereotyped women by presenting them as objects in a scenario designed for the purposes of titillating viewers. Overall, we considered that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
On that point, 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.
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 featured sexually suggestive content and was seen in an unrelated YouTube video. We considered that because the ad was irresponsible and likely to cause serious and widespread offence, it was not suitable to be featured as a pre-roll video. We expected GOAT Company to have targeted their ads to users aged 18 years and over by using age-verification measures including interest-based targeting factors which described an adult audience and excluded a child audience. The game had an age rating of 17+ and did not feature any further verification measures that would prevent the game being downloaded by children. Furthermore, we considered that those watching the unrelated YouTube video would not expect to be served an ad featuring adult content. We therefore concluded that the ad had been irresponsibly targeted.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
We considered consumers would understand from the ad that the content featured was representative of the King’s Throne Game of Lust overall. However, we understood that the King’s Throne Game of Lust in large part consisted of gameplay which involved expanding a kingdom, recruiting knights and going on expeditions. Although some scenes in the game were of a sexual nature, users would play a significant amount of content that was of a different style in order to access that featured in the ad. Therefore, we concluded that because the ad was not representative of the game it featured it was misleading.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told GOAT Company Ltd to ensure that their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence or harm by objectifying women, and to ensure their ads were not socially irresponsible. We referred the matter to the CAP’s Compliance Team.