Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An in-game ad for the mobile app game Infinity 8 Ball, seen in the mobile app game Angry Birds 2 on 15 May 2022, included an animated image of a female character superimposed over a shot of a pool table. She was depicted posing with one hand on her hip and a pool cue in the other, dressed in a cowboy hat, jeans, and an unbuttoned sleeveless denim overshirt that partially exposed her breasts. Bold, white text overlaid on a pink button stated “Play Now”.
The complainant, who believed the image was overly sexualised and objectified women, challenged whether the ad:
1. was offensive and irresponsible; and
2. had been irresponsibly targeted.
1. & 2. Playorcas did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
Rovio, the developer of the app in which the ad was seen, said they were unable to identify the ad network that had served the ad. They stated their procedures required that they, or third-party advertisers, applied filters to block any ad categories Rovio considered unsuitable for users of their apps. This included ads with partial nudity or sexual content. They suspected the ad had been miscategorised, or incorrectly filtered, which meant it had appeared in error despite breaching their own policies.
The ASA was concerned by Playorcas’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ad depicted a woman, dressed in an unbuttoned shirt, posed in a way that partially exposed her breasts and otherwise emphasised her body. While we regarded that as only mildly sexually suggestive, we considered that portraying the woman in that way, for no other reason than to promote an online pool game, objectified her by presenting her as a sexual object with the sole purpose of titillating viewers.
Because we considered the ad was objectifying, we further considered it was likely to cause serious and widespread offence and included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and had been irresponsibly targeted, because it was not suitable to be published in any game. We concluded the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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. 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 its current form. We told Playorcas to ensure that their ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, including by featuring a harmful gender stereotype by objectifying and sexualising women. We also told them to ensure that their ads were responsibly targeted. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.