This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Wednesday April 09 2008. It was last updated at 07:22 on April 09 2008.
A “graphic” and “shocking” poster, press and television advertisement campaign for Xbox video game Kane & Lynch has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA has ordered the game’s publisher, Eidos Interactive, not to print or broadcast any of the ads again after upholding 26 complaints and ruling that the poster was “graphic and too shocking to be seen in an untargeted medium”.
Eidos’s press ad promoting the game – about two violent mercenaries – showed a woman with a gagged and tear-stained face having her head held back by one of the men, who stood behind her pulling her hair and wearing surgical gloves. A second man, who held a rifle with his finger on the trigger, stood behind him.
The ad was used a double-page spread in Future Publishing’s computer game magazine Edge, while a second version appeared in the magazine Total Film, also owned by Future, with the same images but in close-up and with the rifle excised. The poster ad used the same image.
A TV ad for Kane & Lynch showed scenes involving the two central characters from the game shooting guns among a group of hostages. One of the characters used the butt of his rifle as a club accompanied by the sound of a loud crunch, while another scene showed a man with a bloodied face apparently having his throat cut.
The voiceover stated: “From the creators of Hitman comes Kane & Lynch … Lynch, a medicated psychopath, Kane a flawed mercenary”.
The ad continued with various scenes of acts of violence and chaos including shooting and people screaming and running in terror.
Ruling on the Kane & Lynch poster, which stated “Grittier and nastier in tone than anything you’ve seen before, the violence here is visceral, brutal and very, very real”, the ASA said it was “likely to be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence”, and was also irresponsible and “likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
The ASA also ruled that the images in the press ads were “graphic and too shocking to be seen in any medium” and breached its code on responsible advertising, decency as well as on violence and antisocial behaviour.
“We noted that the demographic profile of the magazines that carried the ads was predominantly adult males and that only a small number of children were likely to have seen the ads,” the regulator said.
“We considered, however, that the graphic and shocking image, which would be seen as condoning and glorifying real violence, was likely to cause distress to some readers and was unsuitable for children to see. We therefore concluded that the placement of the ads was irresponsible.”
Complaints against the TV ad were also upheld, with the ASA deciding that the images were “likely to cause offence and distress to viewers despite the animated treatment” and breached its code on harm and offence, violence and cruelty and personal distress.
“In addition, we considered that the voiceover, which included the statement from one of the characters, ‘I should regret it all, all the pain I’ve caused’, in conjunction with acts of violence and intimidation, which were prevalent throughout the ad, were likely to be seen by viewers as condoning real violence and cruelty,” the ASA added.
In its defence, Eidos said that it had intended the poster image to be “cinematic” but it was not their intention to cause offence. The games producer added that the ad portrayed a kidnap scene from the game but pointed out that the woman was unharmed despite the mouth gag.
Eidos said the TV ad was designed to be cinematic and to communicate the contrasting characteristics of the two main protagonists. The company added that because of the subject matter of the game, the TV ad was “not … overly violent”.
Both Channel 4 and Channel Five, which broadcast the television ad, apologised for causing any distress.
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