The UK Advertising Standards Authority, recently in the news for upholding consumer complaints regarding a TV ad for Activision game Call Of Duty 2 that featured CG sequences, as opposed to in-game footage, has now upheld a complaint against a UK print advertisement for Konami title Crime Life: Gang Wars.
According to the original complainee: "The ad [in UK free paper Metro] showed a street scene with five black men lined up; two of the men were holding guns, another was holding a baseball bat and one was holding a hammer. Text above the men stated "Rule the streets or fall by the wayside". The complainant objected that the ad was offensive and irresponsible, because it exploited racial stereotypes, glorified violence and encouraged anti-social behavior."
The Authority then spoke to Konami of Europe GmbH, who explained that "the men in the ad represented members of the band D12, who were the main characters in the game. They explained the setting of the game was the world of black, urban American gangs. Konami told us the band had approved the use of their image and therefore denied they were exploiting racial stereotypes." In addition, Konami commented that "...the image was an indication of the game's content and the text "RULE THE STREETS OR FALL BY THE WAYSIDE" a reference to the object of the game. They said, although the ad could be seen to be suggestive of violence, the main image did not depict or imply any particular act of violence and was in keeping with the content of the game."
However, the Advertising Standards Authority concluded that the ad breached clauses 2.2 (Responsibility), 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 (Taste and decency) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour), commenting: "The ASA noted Konami's comments. We accepted that D12 had approved the use of their image but concluded that some readers may not understand that the men in the ad represented the band members and could take the image to be a negative portrayal of black men and be offended by it on those grounds. We also considered that the text "Rule the streets or fall by the wayside" could be seen to condone violence and present that choice of lifestyle as aspirational in a way that was irresponsible."
As a conclusion, the Advertising Standards Authority has told Konami not to repeat any publication for the ad, and advised them to approach the UK Committee of Advertising Practice's Copy Advice team for guidance when advertising similar products in future.
In related news, a complaint against Atari for the Game Boy Advance game Driv3r, which was advertised in childrens' magazines Beano and Dandy despite featuring "men leaning out of car windows firing handguns", was dismissed by the ASA, as the game had a PEGI rating of 7+, within the age range for the magazine readers.