The makers of a mobile game called “Proof” have been banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because it portrayed women as “susceptible to abuse.”
The ad for the game was shown during the key TV advertising window on April 24, the ASA said. It showed a girl identified as “Carrie” in the game being punched in the face with such force that she fell off a wall.
The ASA said the game displayed women as “either inherently abusive or at risk of becoming so”, a “trivialising and irresponsible depiction” of domestic violence.
The ASA asked the app-maker, Seven Bar Publishing, to remove the ad from free-to-view channels.
Seven Bar Publishing said the ad was not intended to be used by mobile phone users but by younger children and teenagers and that it was never intended to be considered “as an accurate portrayal of domestic violence.”
But the ASA said the ad was “much more likely to appeal to some viewers, including children.” It said children might have seen it or, if they were older, had heard of it and found it persuasive.
It cited an audience profile from its analysis of BBC iPlayer age ratings that showed around a quarter of the programme and TV-viewing audience was aged between 8 and 15.
In its decision the ASA said it understood the game was rated 12+ and intended for children.
It added: “While we accept that the product itself was not intended to be viewed by older children, we considered that the ad could appeal to children, particularly if their parents also wanted to try the game.
“We therefore concluded that, although the product was intended to be viewed by children, the ad was also not appropriate for this audience, and had potential to appeal to children who may have seen it or had heard of it.”
The ASA said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision, calling it “unfair” and holding it “blatantly at odds with the content of the ad, which was intended to normalise and demonstrate how an abusive partner affected a victim’s perception of the world and behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Seven Bar Publishing told the Washington Post: “We are very sorry for any upset the ASA decision has caused. In fact, it is very typical of the complainants: they have used all manner of obscenities and allegations to try to divert attention from their own failings.
“The game was clearly designed with an older audience in mind. It was intended for younger children on tablets and mobile phones to imitate TV. While the ad was never intended to be seen by children or teenagers, we accept that it did, and we will be taking steps to help people understand its content.
“Ultimately, the ASA has succumbed to the complaints of fear and intimidation from an extremely small minority who have chosen to employ their financial clout and power to stop better awareness and education of this very serious issue in the UK.”