Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An in-app ad for the game Feel Fantasy was seen on 8 September 2023 in the app Relax with Word Puzzles. The ad began with animated footage of a woman’s head and shoulders facing the camera and appearing to speak, but the sound was muffled. The word “Eroticos” was superimposed in small font in one corner of the screen while a cartoon image of a woman’s head in a small box next to the word “Install” was in the other corner. A man’s hand appeared to grab the animated woman’s throat, then a second hand moved in and both hands ripped open her blouse. The screen changed to a downward arrow and the words “SIGN UP AND PLAY”.
The complainant, who believed the ad trivialised and condoned sexual violence towards women, and who noted that it appeared in an app with a rating of “E for Everyone”, challenged whether:
1. the ad was harmful, offensive and irresponsible and
2. was targeted irresponsibly.
1. & 2. Play&Date Entertainment Zone did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Play&Date Entertainment Zone’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7. We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. It further stated that marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence; that particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age and must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence.
The ad contained animated, but lifelike footage of a woman being grabbed by the throat and then having her blouse ripped open, all to muffled sound. The ASA considered the mood of the ad was dark and threatening and with no clear anti-violence message. We considered the ripping open of the woman’s blouse; the superimposed word “Eroticos” and the cartoon image of a woman’s head in the corner with an elaborate hair style, added a sexual dimension to the ad. We considered consumers would interpret the ad as a portrayal of sexually violent behaviour by a man towards a woman without her consent. We considered the ad sexually objectified the woman, and therefore included a gender stereotype likely to cause harm. We also considered that the gratuitous way the violence towards the woman was shown, and the invitation to “sign up and play”, trivialised and condoned sexual assault and sexual violence.
We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and likely to cause serious and widespread offence.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1, 4.4 and 4.9 (Harm and offence).
The ad appeared in an app with a rating of “E for Everyone”. As set out in point 1, we considered the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence to a general audience.
Notwithstanding that we considered the ad was inappropriate for a general audience, because it was likely to be considered particularly inappropriate for children to see. We considered whether or not it had been targeted away from children to minimise the risk of them seeing it. Although we considered that the Relax with Word Puzzles app was not explicitly targeted at children or was likely to appeal particularly to them, it nevertheless had a rating of “E for Everyone” and could be downloaded without charge. We considered it was therefore likely to be used by children as well as adults.
Because Play&Date Entertainment Zone had not put exclusions in place which would prevent the ad being seen in an app which could be accessed by children, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Play&Date Entertainment to ensure future ads were prepared responsibly, were appropriately targeted and did not contain scenes which trivialised or condoned sexual assault or sexual violence and which were likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.