“Advergames” are typically electronic games that are used to advertise a product, brand or organisation. Increasingly accessible on social media sites as well as in the form of downloadable apps for mobile devices, are they covered by the CAP Code? Jas Purewal reports on recent guidance on the issue.
Topic: Betting and Gaming
Who: Committee on Advertising Practice
When: 17 May 2012
Law stated as at: 30 May 2012
The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued guidance reminding advertisers that video games which contain online advertising may be subject to its rules.
Historically, CAP guidance has been restricted to advertising about games (such as its 2010 ruling about a television advertisement for the game Final Fantasy XIII) rather than advertising in games.
However, the CAP Code was amended in September 2010 to include oversight over "in-game advertisements" and "advergames that feature in display advertisements" among other things (advergames being "electronic games that are used to advertise a product, brand or an organisation").
The CAP has now issued guidance specifically regarding advergames. The key points made are:
(1) Advergames are in principle regulated by the CAP Code whether they are contained in paid-for online space or on hosted on the advertiser's own site, via social media under the advertiser's control or on downloadable apps.
(2) However, the advergames must be "directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts" to fall under the CAP Code (though in practice this may not be a significant issue for many advergames).
(3) "Very few" complaints have been received regarding advergames to date, but those received concern the perceived harm that could be caused to children. The CAP reminded advertisers therefore of the overarching duty to take care when addressing children in marketing.
(4) The CAP Code also requires that advergames are "obviously identifiable as such". In theory this should be straightforward, but in practice the interactive nature of advergames may make such labelling more complicated to effect in practice while still preserving the 'game' nature of the advertisement. That said, the CAP guidance stated that "in determining whether advergames conform to this rule, the ASA will likely consider the context in which the advergame is made available, any references to the product, brand or organisation in or around the game and the target audience."
Why this matters:
The potential for using interactive forms of advertisements, particularly advergames, as a means to encourage user engagement with the advertisement has existed for some time now. However, until relatively recently there was a lack of clarity as to how (if at all) they should be regulated. The CAP is now taking steps to remedy that position, both via its new remit over advergames in the latest CAP Code as well as the present guidance.
That said, generally speaking advergames tend to be one of the lesser used forms of in-game advertising (which itself has as yet failed to attain the levels of interest and success once predicted for it) and it seems clear there have been few complaints to the ASA about them so far. As a result, while this guidance is a useful clarification of the position, advergames seem unlikely to be a source of many ASA complaints in the foreseeable future.