An in-app ad for Producer: Choose Your Star, seen on 26 August 2021, in the app Bricks n Balls. The ad showed a woman asleep in a chair. Items such as a hook, knife and saw appeared and were presented as options to the player. Each item was picked, in succession, to gradually remove more of the woman’s clothing. The woman was shown in a state of undress when the final option, a hook, was chosen. The point of the hook was shown near the centre of the woman’s chest as she woke up. A scene included text that stated “FAILED”. The woman was shown scowling, her hands covered her chest and a speech bubble said “What are you doing”.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the ad encouraged sexual exploitation and abuse, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and offensive.
Rangosious Public Holdings did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
People Fun, the app developer of Bricks n Balls, said they were not affiliated with Rangosious Holdings Ltd. They said they permit third-party advertisers to serve in-app ads in some of their games, such as Bricks n Balls. They said usually ads were served programmatically by third-party ad platforms and so they were not in a position to review or pre-approve ads before they were served. They understood that the ad platforms had their own ad policies and expected advertisers to comply with any applicable laws and regulations.
People Fun confirmed that upon being notified of the complaint they had taken immediate steps to prevent the ad from being distributed in their games.
The ASA was concerned by Rangosious Public Holdings’ lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ad portrayed a scenario where a user picked tools in an attempt to remove clothing from a woman asleep in a chair. The ad showed that waking the woman in the game, by opting for the wrong tool, was considered a failure.
The ASA considered that because the woman was asleep for the majority of the ad, she was presented as a passive, voiceless figure, whose sole function was to provide users with the opportunity to remove her clothes, until she was shown in a state of undress. The woman was therefore depicted as an unresisting character, for players to manipulate without consent. It was only in the final scene, when she was woken, that the ad ascribed any personality or volition to the woman.
We considered that due to the portrayal of the woman in the ad, and because it implied the aim of the game was to remove her clothes, it stereotyped the woman by presenting her as a sexual object and condoned removal of the woman’s clothing without consent. Because the ad was likely to cause serious offence and included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm, we therefore concluded that it was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 4.1 and 4.9 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Rangosious Holdings Ltd to ensure future ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, including by objectifying women. We referred the matter to the CAP compliance team.