An in-game banner ad for Ewank.com appeared within the app 'Talking Tom'. Large text stated "EWANK" and an image of three naked women engaged in sexual activities with four other women was shown with a 'play' symbol on top of the image.
The complainant, whose five-year-old child had been playing the game when the ad was seen, challenged whether the ad had been inappropriately and irresponsibly placed within a game likely to be played by children.
Mobjizz Ltd t/a Ewank.com said they provided non-subscription, premium rate, adult content which could be paid for and consumed on a mobile device. They said they allowed their product to be advertised by third parties on affiliate advertising networks, upon signature of an affiliate agreement which contained strict clauses. They therefore had no direct control over the physical placement of ads for their site because that was solely handled by the affiliate and the ad networks.
They said they fully recognised the importance of appropriate placement of their ads given the nature of their product, and that they had not deliberately targeted ads to under 18s. They said that the contract which affiliate networks were required to sign stated that ads for their product should under no circumstances be placed on mainstream sites and that any breach of the contract may lead to withholding of revenue and termination of the contract. They said that they also had a due diligence process (further details were provided), in place for the purposes of preventing, identifying and resolving instances of affiliate malpractice. They said they were looking at developing tools in future to be able to track each stage between an ad and the service provider's site.
Mobjizz said the appearance of the ad in the Talking Tom app was a clear breach of their affiliate contract and were keen to identify the affiliate involved so they could take action against them. However, given the information available that had not been possible. As a precautionary measure they had distributed a notice to all their affiliates reminding them of their obligations and expressly stating that ads in apps similar to this was highly unsuitable for their site and breached their terms. They had also contacted their third-party affiliate marketing monitoring partner with regards to the possibility of 'in-app' checking in future.
Outfit7, who operated the app Talking Tom, said they had a strict advertising policy implemented into agreements with its partners and that their partners used category filters to ensure that only age-appropriate ads were served to their apps. They said that if they were alerted to inappropriate ads they would request the removal of them as quickly as possible. They requested their partners to double-check their ad filters and found no irregularities. From the information available they had not been able to identify which ad network had served the ad.
The ASA considered that the sexually explicit content of the ad and the product it promoted meant that it should not appear in media which might be seen by children. In this case the ad had appeared in an app which would be of particular appeal to children.
We acknowledged that Mobjizz had procedures in place that were intended to prevent their ads appearing in apps targeted at children and we welcomed the fact that once notified of the complaint they had attempted to identify the affiliate who had placed the ad as well as reminding all affiliates of their obligations not to place ads in apps of this nature. However, we noted that they had been unable to identify the third party responsible for placing the ad in the Talking Tom app, and were concerned that their procedures had not been adequate to ensure their ads only appeared in appropriate mediums. We therefore concluded that the ad had been irresponsibly placed and breached the Code.
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 told Mobjizz Ltd to ensure that their ads did not appear in apps that were likely to be played by children in future.