A trailer for the film Turbo Kid, shown in-stream during a Twitch broadcast of the League of Legends World Championships on 10 October 2015, featured scenes from the film. These included: a circular saw blade being shot into a man's face, another being shot into a woman's chest, several decapitated heads on poles, people exploding into gore, a man's jaw being ripped off and the top of a man's head being cut off.
The complainant, who believed the ad's content was excessively gory, challenged whether the ad was distressing and offensive.
Lions Gate stated that the ad was no longer live on any digital platform. They said that care was taken in considering the approach to placing the ad. Twitch catered to a gaming audience, predominantly between 18 and 49 years old, who were accustomed to violence in a surreal and stylised setting, and that this therefore seemed to be an appropriate audience. They stated that the trailer was placed with contextually relevant content on the site, specifically for an audience interested in content of that kind and to prevent inadvertent viewing by those who were not. Lions Gate acknowledged the complainant's concern that the content was excessively gory, but believed that this was a matter of the content being distasteful rather than offensive. As the ad was a representative depiction of the film it advertised, they felt the images were shown with justifiable reason. They did not believe that a single complaint was symptomatic of widespread offence.
Twitch believed the ad was suitable for their site users because the highly stylised, fantasy content was a fair and legitimate representation of the film it promoted and because it was unlikely to cause offence to the adult gamers who made up the site's users and were very familiar with such content. They said that the latest Comscore data demonstrated that 78.8% of Twitch's audience was aged 18 or over. They said they had a commitment to appropriately treat minors on their site, such as the requirement to be over 13 years of age to use the service and for under-18s to have parental consent. They said they had received no complaints themselves about the ad and that the ad would not be shown again in the form complained about.
The ASA understood that League of Legends (LoL) was a game with broad appeal and that its style of play was fantastical and somewhat cartoonish, with no particularly explicit violence or depictions of gore. We considered that the imagery in the ad was significantly different to the content during which it appeared and likely to cause distress and offence to those who did not ordinarily view that type of content.
We acknowledged the statements from Lions Gate and Twitch, that they felt the ad was suitable for their audiences because adult game-players would be used to the sort of stylised violence featured within it. However, we understood that not all adult gamers and LoL viewers would play or view games with graphic violence or gore and considered that, unless they had previously viewed or sought out content of this type, users would not expect to come across material that was significantly stronger than the stream they had selected to watch. We therefore considered that, because there was such a significant difference between the type of material in the ad compared to the surrounding gameplay content, the ad should only have been targeted to users whose previous activity indicated they were comfortable with viewing such content. We understood, however, that such factors had not been taken into account in the targeting of the ad. We recognised that the ad contained material reflective of the film's content, but considered that those images were very graphic and that, unless targeted carefully, they were likely to cause unjustified distress or serious offence to some who saw the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
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 race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. 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 4.2 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).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about unless appropriately targeted. We told Lions Gate International (UK) Ltd to ensure that similar future advertising did not contain significantly more graphic content than the material it was placed in or around, unless sufficient care was taken with targeting to avoid causing unjustified distress or serious offence.