An in-game ad for the mobile app game Love Paradise – Merge Makeover was seen on 16 July 2023. It featured an animation of a pregnant female character, “Elise”, a male character, “Lucas” and his pregnant girlfriend. The ad included on-screen speech bubbles which showed the conversations.
Elise was depicted sprawled on the floor at the bottom of a staircase next to Lucas and his girlfriend. He said to his girlfriend, “Let’s go to hospital”.
In the next scene, both female characters were in hospital and a doctor said, “Sorry, we can only accept one now”. Lucas replied saying, “Save the prettier one! She is my true love!” Elise, who had a thick monobrow, heavy make-up, stubble on her face and messy hair, sobbed loudly and said, “I’ll make him regret!” There was an icon labelled “Help Her” which a pointing hand clicked on.
The next scenes presented on-screen options to make over Elise which an on-screen hand selected from.
After her make-over, Elise appeared alongside Lucas and his girlfriend, who were both dressed in wedding attire and she was no longer pregnant. Lucas said to Elise, “Give up! I am bound to marry her!”, and vomiting emojis appeared on-screen. Elise had tears flooding from her eyes and the word “FAIL” appeared in large text on-screen, followed by “Can you help me?” and options labelled “Help Her” and “Ignore”. The pointing hand clicked “Help Her”.
Elise was shown alone, dressed in a scruffy outfit and looking unkempt. On-screen text stated “Choose the right outfit” and presented four different outfit options which a moving hand flittered between.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, offensive and harmful.
Rosecrab Ltd did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Rosecrab Ltd’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.
The CAP Code required marketers to avoid causing serious or widespread offence and to ensure advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
The animated ad firstly depicted the heavily pregnant Elise, sprawled at the bottom of a staircase with a man, Lucas, and a woman walking away from her. We considered that the ad implied that Elise had been assaulted by the couple by being pushed down the stairs and would be interpreted by viewers as condoning violence towards a pregnant woman.
In the hospital scene, we considered that the ad implied that Elise was not pretty enough to be worthy of her pregnancy, with Lucas stating to the doctor “Save the prettier one! She is my true love!” and Elise visibly distressed. We considered that the ad played on pre-existing gender stereotypes regarding women and their physical appearance by inviting the viewer to help Elise become prettier by giving her a makeover in order to gain Lucas’s approval.
In the final scene where Lucas and his girlfriend were pictured getting married with Lucas saying to Elise, “Give up! I am bound to marry her!” with the word “FAIL” next to Elise, we considered that this implied that Elise was not worthy of marrying Lucas because she had failed to make herself pretty enough for him. Both women were objectified by the male character, Lucas who held the decisions about their future with him in his hands and they competed for his attention. Viewers were encouraged to compare and contrast the two women based on physical appearance and Elise, depicted as comical with her monobrow, ripped clothing and heavy make-up was deliberately compared unfavourably with the other woman, who was portrayed as conventionally attractive. We considered that this played on stereotypes regarding women, physical appearance and the need to conform to social norms.
Overall, we considered that viewers would interpret the ad as depicting Elise as a victim of emotional and physical bullying, partly because of her physical appearance. We concluded that the ad contained harmful gender stereotypes regarding physical appearance, condoned violence and was irresponsible and offensive. The ad appeared to present scenarios of bullying with the purpose of entertaining viewers and made light of and normalised assault.
We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, 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 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 and 4.9 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Rosecrab Ltd to ensure that their ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, including by condoning or encouraging violence, objectifying women or presenting gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.