A TV ad, for the computer game ‘Dead Rising 3’, presented in the style of a news broadcast featured the newsreader with blood on her clothes and in her hair. Partial text on screen stated "ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE". The camera shook and studio lights flickered; a zombie shadow was seen in the background and the shaking legs of another zombie were shown sticking up from the floor. The newsreader described a possible saviour for mankind before she slumped forward, splattering blood. Straightening up, she was revealed as a white faced, bloodied zombie, before she lurched towards the camera. Small monitor screens on the right of the screen showed clips from the game throughout the ad.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a post-9 pm restriction.
Three viewers challenged whether the ad was suitable for broadcast, because of the distressing and graphic images.
Microsoft Ltd said, although emulating zombie horror films, the ad was not designed to distress or frighten viewers, but was intended to be a humorous parody of the well-known zombie and horror genre. They explained that the ad was scheduled after 9 pm and broadcast in the lead up to and just after Halloween during horror, science fiction and action films and programmes intended for an adult audience. They believed the scheduling of the ad during or around programmes of a similar theme was unlikely to cause harm or offence to viewers watching at those times. They believed that viewers would understand that the ad was a parody and not a news bulletin, with two inset sub-screens showing computer generated images from the game, the unrealistic, comical shaking legs sticking up from the floor and the newsreader, although bloodied, not appearing distressed. Microsoft said the images in the surrounding programmes were arguably more graphic and distressing than those in the ad.
Clearcast said they recognised that some parts of the ad might disturb younger viewers and therefore applied a post-9 pm scheduling restriction. However, they believed that, although the ad contained horror elements, the horror was not relentless and the tone clearly comic in nature and unlikely to cause widespread harm or offence scheduled at an appropriate time.
The ASA noted the ad was intended for a post-9 pm audience and had been scheduled during a season of horror, science fiction and action programmes where the zombie theme would not appear out of place. Although there were some elements of horror in the ad with the blood splattered newsreader transforming into a white faced zombie lurching towards the camera, we considered that the clearly over-the-top acting and comic tone, such as a pair of shaking legs sticking up from the floor, removed any real element of horror or distress from the ad. We also noted the ad did not include any violence or graphic horror action.
We acknowledged that the ad would not be suitable for a younger audience, who would be unlikely to understand the comic nature of the ad, but concluded that the ad was not unsuitable for broadcast after 9pm.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility), 4.10 4.10 Advertisements must not distress the audience without justifiable reason. Advertisements must not exploit the audience's fears or superstitions (Harm and offence) and 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.