Recent TV ads for two computer games showed scenes taken from the games. For these is it common procedure to use enhanced graphics specially made for the commercial or is the practice misleading?
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: A well known computer games maker
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority, London
When: February 2006
The Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") dealt with a complaint that TV ads for two computer games breached the "misleading advertising" provisions of the BCAP TV Advertising Standards Code.
The two ads in question featured computer-generated scenes and pack shots of the games.
Three viewers felt that the advertisements were misleading because the quality of the graphics in the ad was superior to that of the games. They felt that viewers could have assumed from the advertisement that the scenes depicted were taken from the games and that viewers might have bought on the strength of the quality of the scenes shown.
In the normal way, the ASA contacted the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre for its views, given that the BACC had cleared both advertisements for broadcast. It then became clear that the BACC had assumed, when initially clearing both advertisements, that the scenes appearing in the ads were taken from the games themselves. It was only when the BACC contacted the advertiser about the complaints that it became clear that the computer-generated scenes had been produced solely for the ads.
In its defence, the advertiser said that it was its understanding that it was common practice to use specially generated scenes for TV ads and they had not been told that it was unacceptable to use material created specially for an ad in this way. They asserted that they had acted in good faith at all times.
In its decision, the ASA noted that the ads did not include any indication that the images shown did not reflect the quality of graphics of the games and because they were not accurate representations of the graphics in the games themselves, they considered the ads misleading.
Why this matters:
As with advertisements for televisions, digital photo printers and mobile phones, advertisers of computer games should take care to ensure that the image quality as it appears in the TV ad is equivalent to the quality experienced by the user of the product in real life.
In this case it is disappointing perhaps that the BACC did not alert the advertiser to this aspect when initially clearing the advertisement.
Commentators have been quoted as stating that this case will have huge implications for the computer games industry and will "send shockwaves" through it. Something of an overstatement perhaps, but a salutary lesson nonetheless, whose message applies equally to print and banner ads.