Who: Paramount Pictures
When: 6 February 2013
Law stated as at: 4 March 2013
Paramount Pictures was on the receiving end of an upheld ASA adjudication in February 2013 as a result of an ad for the film Paranormal Activity 4 appearing around the game apps “Angry Birds” and “Draw Something”.
The ad included scenes of a person being dragged across a room by an invisible force and a young woman talking to a friend online as a shadowy figure appeared behind her. The complainants challenged the ad on the basis that the ad was likely to cause fear or distress to children and was irresponsible as it appeared during games likely to be played by children.
Paramount said they had instructed their media buying agency, MEC Global, to buy advertising space aimed at 15 to 24 year olds and that their instructions were issued in good faith on the understanding that the ad would be placed appropriately. MEC Global had purchased advertising space targeting that demographic from Odyssey Mobile, who put together a package that included Angry Birds and Draw Something. Paramount said that neither Odyssey Mobile nor the app owners had raised concerns about the ad being inappropriate for display in those apps.
Both Zynga Inc., the owners of Draw Something, and Rovio, the owners of Angry Birds, said the ad had been placed in their games by their advertising partners. They pointed out that the ad broke their advertising guidelines. Once they had been informed about the ad by some of their gamers they ensured that it was pulled.
Although the ASA acknowledged that Paramount had instructed their agency in good faith, errors had clearly been made by the various parties involved in placing the ad. They agreed with the complainants that the ad contained scenes that could be distressing to children, and that its placement in mobile games that might be played by both adults and children was irresponsible.
The ASA therefore upheld the complaints on the basis that CAP Code rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.2 (Harm and offence) had been breached.
Why this matters:
The adjudication highlights that placement issues affect online media just as they affect traditional advertising media such as TV and outdoor ads. Many online games are likely to be popular with children, unless they are age-gated, and care must clearly be taken when placing in-game ads to ensure that no CAP Code rules are being breached. Furthermore, those involved in placing ads should remember that they will often be under a contractual obligation to comply with advertising guidelines issued by the advertiser and/or the media owner, and keep these in mind at all times.