A paid-for Twitter ad for Oasis Games’ “Refantasia: Charm and Conquer” @refantasia_game, seen on 11 July 2022, featured the caption “Ah! Master! I kept wondering when I would see my master again! And here you are!”. An anime/manga-style image underneath featured a young woman in a cage. She was knelt facing away from the viewer, looking back over her shoulder. She wore shorts and a vest-top, both torn, and had a long, bushy tail and rabbit-like ears. She had metal shackles on her wrists and ankles. Large text on the image stated “YOU LITTLE GIRL I won’t let you run away again”.
The complainant, who believed the ad was sexist, objectified women and portrayed someone who seemed to be under 18 in a sexual way, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, offensive and harmful.
Oasis Games Ltd t/a Refantasia: Charm and Conquer said they were a Chinese gaming company which published games internationally. They had carried out an internal investigation which had revealed a disconnect between their marketing team and their localisation team, and they had taken action to address it. They said that all ads of a similar nature had been removed from Twitter. They acknowledged and apologised for the offence the ad had caused.
Twitter said they were unable to locate the ad, because it was a self-promoted Tweet which was subsequently deleted. They did not comment on the content of the ad itself.
The CAP Code required that ads must not cause serious or widespread offence and must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. It also stated that marketing communications must not portray or represent anyone who was, or seemed to be, under 18 years of age in a sexual way.
The ad depicted an anime style image of a young woman in a cage, facing away from the viewer looking back over her shoulder. She was depicted wearing torn clothing and had metal shackles on her wrists and ankles. Although she was depicted with a tail and rabbit-like ears and in a cartoon-style, the ASA considered that she still recognisably represented a young woman or girl. The way in which the torn clothing was depicted meant that the side of the characters breast was shown and the outline of her breast was prominent. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was open in a fearful expression.
We considered that the way the character was depicted, including her clothing, pose, expression and the setting, was sexual in nature. The sexual nature of the image was emphasised further by the caption referencing “my master” and the text over the image which stated “YOU LITTLE GIRL I won’t let you run away again”.
We considered that viewers would interpret the ad as depicting the character as a stereotypical sexual object who was an imprisoned and helpless victim, and that the ad appeared to present that scenario with the purpose of titillating viewers.
We further considered that the ad presented the character as someone who seemed to be under the age of 18, because her face appeared youthful and, in particular, because the caption referred to her as “LITTLE GIRL”. The ad therefore breached the Code by representing someone who seemed to be under 18 in a sexual way.
We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm and was socially irresponsible.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) and
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. 4.8 4.8 Marketing communications must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to marketing communications whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive. and 4.9 4.9 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 must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Oasis Games Ltd t/a Refantasia; Charm and Conquer to ensure that their ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, and not to feature harmful gender stereotypes by objectifying and sexualising women. We also told them not to represent anyone who was, or seemed to be, under 18 years of age in a sexual way.