The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rapped video game publisher Eidos over the knuckles following complaints about its adverts for the shoot-em-up game Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.
To promote the game, Eidos launched a series of advertisements including a poster, two magazine ads and a TV ad.
The poster and magazine ads showed two men and a woman. The woman was seated in the foreground; she was gagged and had a tear-stained face. Her head was being held back by one of the men who stood behind her pulling her hair; he wore surgical gloves and was speaking on a mobile phone. He had a plaster across his nose, which appeared broken, and his face was marked with a deep scar. A second man, who held a rifle with his finger on the trigger, stood behind him.
The TV ad, which was cleared by Clearcast with a post 9pm restriction, showed scenes involving the two central characters from the game.
Among other violent scenes, they were shown shooting guns among a group of hostages; one of the characters used the butt of his rifle as a club; although the impact was not shown, a loud crunch was heard. Another scene showed a man with a bloodied face apparently having his throat cut.
The watchdog received 26 complaints about the campaign, the majority believing the ad to be offensive because it included shocking images that condoned violence, particularly towards women.
Ten complainants felt that the depiction of violence in the poster ad was distressing and unsuitable for children to see.
Eidos defended its actions explaining that the game was a graphic 18-rated action thriller following two mercenaries, Kane and Lynch, on a mission to recapture a kidnapped family.
The publisher did not comment on the poster's suitability for children, but said it had been withdrawn and replaced with an alternative design and that it had intended the image to be cinematic, but it was not its intention to cause offence.
Media company Clear Channel Outdoor also said it had removed the ads as soon as it became aware of any complaints.
Future Publishing, whose publications Edge and Total Film had published the magazine ads, said it had not received any complaints directly from readers regarding the ads.
Eidos added that the ads were not intended to be seen by children and were published only in magazines aimed at adults.
Regarding the TV ad, Eidos explained that it was designed to be cinematic and to communicate the contrasting characteristics of the two main protagonists and that, in its view, the ad was not overly violent given the subject matter of the game.
However, the ASA upheld all the complaints brought against Eidos finding the company in breach of CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising), 5.1 (Decency) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour), 9.1 (Fear and distress) and the TV Advertising Standards Code rules 6.1 (Harm and offence), 6.2 (Harm and offence – Violence and cruelty) and 6.4 (Harm and offence – Personal distress).
Eidos has been told not to broadcast the TV ad again in its current form and to ensure that the image used in the poster and magazine ads is not re-used in any medium.
It also advised the publisher to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before publishing future, similar non-broadcast material.