A poster for the video game "Far Cry 3" featured a man sitting in a tropical environment dressed in combat uniform, holding a gun in each hand. In the background, two people were shown hanging upside down from a tree. Text stated "FARCRY3 ... PLAY AT THE EUROGAMER expo ... OUT 30.11.2012".
The complainant challenged whether the poster was offensive, irresponsible and likely to cause fear or distress to those who saw it, including children.
Ubisoft Entertainment Ltd (Ubisoft) said their intention was not to sensationalise or offend with the image, which was based on the packaging for the game. It was intended to appeal to those attending the Eurogamer Expo event at Earls Court Exhibition Centre between 27 and 30 September, which was why it contained a specific call-to-action that referenced the Expo. They said the event was for those aged 16 years or over and they had not intended to target children with the ad. They said they were mindful of their responsibilities, which was why they had complied with changes directed by CBS Outdoor and CAP before publication. They said they were surprised that the ad was still appearing by the time the complainant saw it and they advised that they had instructed the outdoor media planning agency to take the poster down as soon as they became aware of the complaint.
CBS Outdoor said they had received quite a few different designs for the campaign and had sought advice from CAP on their suitability for display in the London Underground. Based on that advice, they had accepted the design seen in the poster.
The ASA noted that the poster was intended to target audiences attending the Eurogamer Expo but considered that a poster displayed in the London Underground would be seen by the public generally and should therefore contain nothing that was likely to offend or distress them. We understood that CAP Copy Advice and CBS Outdoor had advised against the use of other images produced as part of the same campaign, which showed the main character pointing his gun towards a person buried up to their neck in front of him, but had considered that the version the complainant saw was likely to be acceptable for public display.
We noted that the poster prominently featured the title of the game, its release date and that it could be played at the Eurogamer event. We acknowledged that the men hanging from the tree appeared to be lifeless and that, whether alive or dead, their vulnerability when contrasted with the determined, menacing demeanour of the main character alluded to violence. We also noted that, although the main character had a gun in each hand, they were not being pointed towards another character, or towards the audience.
We considered that the image would be understood as reflecting the content of the game. Although we recognised that some adults would find violent video games offensive by nature, we considered that the image used in the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. Furthermore, we considered that the absence of graphic violence meant that the image was unlikely to cause fear or distress to adults or children.
Because we considered that the poster was unlikely to cause offence, fear or distress to those who saw it, we considered that its display in an untargeted medium was not irresponsible.
We investigated the poster under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
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 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.