Activision has been slapped over a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 TV ad that was deemed to have been shown at an inappropriate time of day.
The Advertising Standards Agency today ruled that the TV ad for the game shouldn't have been shown in the early afternoon after two viewers complained it was broadcast at a time when children would be watching.
The ad was shown at 2.30pm on Sunday 6th November 2011 on Sky Sports 1 during a Premier League football match. One of the viewers reported that their children, aged between two and four, were frightened by the ad.
The TV spot shows New York under assault, with buildings blowing up and soldiers and submarines firing rockets. A London scene sees soldiers fire on a lorry and a helicopter. Tanks drive down streets, planes fly overhead. The voice over narration says: "The world as you knew it is gone. How far will you go to bring it back?" Then the on-screen message to pre-order ahead of the game's 8th November 2011 release and the 18 certificate logo is displayed.
The ad was cleared by agency Clearcast with a timing restriction that it not be shown in or adjacent to programmes aimed at or likely to appear to people below the age of 16.
Responding to the ASA's investigation, Activision said it thought by showing the ad during a football match it fell within the restrictions because it was not broadcast before, during or immediately after a children's programme, and had been edited to satisfy the ex-kids football spots, with all violent and threatening content removed. Activision also pointed out that the BBFC had rated the ad with a PG certificate for in-store use.
But the ASA upheld the complaints and deemed it had breached its code of conduct. In its ruling it said:
"The ad contained scenes of extensive gunfire, explosions and destruction, and these scenes were accompanied by sound effects of weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting. We also noted the ad featured music in the background which sounded like a low-pitched siren and which added to the dramatic nature of the scenes. We considered that the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children who might see the ad.
"Although we noted that the ad was only shown during the football, we concluded that it was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when young children might be watching and the ex-kids restriction was insufficient. We considered a post 7.30pm restriction would have been more appropriate."
Now, the ad must not be broadcast again before 7.30pm, but given it was designed to encourage pre-orders for a game that launched some eight months ago, we doubt Activision will be too bothered.