A paid-for Facebook post for carolgames.com's online game Blade of Queen, seen on 3 May 2017, stated "Warning! Please make sure your girlfriend is not by your side when playing-- [ Click to start ]". Beneath that was a 3D computer game image of a woman lying down and facing away from a camera. Text on blue buttons in the bottom left and right corners of the image stated "Fondle" and "Ravage".
The complainant, who believed the ad invited consumers to fantasise about committing sexual assault, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
ReadMob Technologies (HK) Ltd t/a carolgames.com did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by carolgames.com’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in the future.
We considered the image of the woman, who was faced away from the viewer and seemed to be sleeping, implied “fondle” and “ravage” were non-consensual actions and therefore referred to acts of sexual assault. The text above the image which stated “Warning! Please make sure your girlfriend is not by your side when playing” reinforced the impression that the user’s actions were likely to be regarded by others as shameful or immoral.
We considered that referring to sexual assault in that manner in an ad for a video game trivialised and condoned sexual violence, and as such was likely to cause serious and widespread offence. We concluded the ad had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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 race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. 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 4.4 4.4 Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told carolgames.com not to trivialise or condone sexual violence in their advertising, to ensure their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence, and to ensure they prepare ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. We referred the matter to the CAP’s Compliance Team.