The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advert for Mobile Strike it deemed objectified women.
Mobile Strike is a hugely popular war strategy game that has seen a number of high-profile adverts. Developer Machine Zone, which is also behind Game of War, reportedly paid $5m for a 30-second Super Bowl ad that featured Arnold Schwarzenegger rattling off some of his famous action-movie one-liners while walking through a miniature computer-generated battle.
The advert in question, however, features three bikini-clad models who play Mobile Strike by a pool. If you watched a YouTube video at some point in 2016 and like video games, you've probably seen it.
The ASA received a complaint that the ad was offensive because it objectified women.
Machine Zone countered by saying the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the ad so striking.
"The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in everyday, sometimes boring, spaces," reads the ASA's note on the ruling.
"They did not believe the ad objectified women," the ASA continued.
Machine Zone also pointed to the use of curvy models in the ad as a nod to Mobile Strike's apparent diverse player base.
"The intention was to feature 'real-sized' women and reference mythical warrior women like Amazons and Wonder Woman, as the women were seen making strategic moves in battle against one another," the ASA ruling reports of Machine Zone's response.
Machine Zone goes on to claim that if the ad featured thin models, the complaint probably wouldn't have been made.
"They said they had concerns that the complainant's objection was the size of the women featured rather than what they were wearing or doing in the ad," the ASA said.
"They suspected that had the women been typically thin models seen in ads, it was unlikely that a complaint would have been made. They had decided to feature real-sized women as a nod to their diverse player base."
Machine Zone insisted it had not received a single complaint about the ad. Rather, it had received "considerable support" from players for featuring real-sized women, "as they were often under represented."
The ASA, though, didn't have any of it, and upheld the complaint.
"The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised - a combat-themed mobile game app," it ruled.
"We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or sexually-charged. For example, in one scene, a woman wearing a thong bikini was seen walking towards a sun lounger and the camera angle was taken from below and behind so that as she walked into the scene, only her legs and her thong bikini bottoms were in view.
"We noted that another scene featuring one of the women wearing a swimsuit was shot in slow motion, and the emphasis was on her body rather than the mobile game app she was playing.
"One of the camera angles was shot side-on which highlighted her waist and chest. As she approached the camera, she flicked her hair back, stopped and looked seductively into the camera.
"We noted that the ad featured plus-sized model but we considered that fact was irrelevant. For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women and was therefore offensive."
The upshot is the ad must not appear again in its current form, and the ASA has warned Machine Zone to ensure its ads in the future do not objectify women and cause offence.