Call of Duty advert banned months after it stopped being broadcast. Complete waste of time? Not really says ASA

The Advertising Standards Agency has banned an advert for Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 from being broadcast in the UK before 7.30pm. In its assessment, ASA concluded ‘the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children’. And the last thing anyone wants is to cause distress to children. So it’s hard to argue against the ruling. But I can’t help noticing how the whole thing seems like a complete waste of time.

Above: Explosions like this can be distressing to children

The offending advert aired in the UK on Sky Sports 1 at 2.30pm on Sunday 6 November 2011 during a Premier League football match. It was advertising Modern Warfare 3’s release date and encouraged consumers to pre-order the game. When Modern Warfare 3 was released two days later the advert effectively became redundant. So why has the ASA bothered going through a lengthy process just to impose restrictions on an advert that – 8 months later – is no longer being broadcast? What exactly has been achieved here besides a waste of time?

To find out, I contacted ASA and received the following response:

“While we would prefer for our investigation involving Activision Publishing to have concluded more speedily, and ordinarily these types of cases are resolved promptly, unfortunately a backlog of cases was created towards the end of last year following the extension of our online remit. This has meant some cases have taken longer to conclude than is ideal. That said, it is still important that our adjudication is published on the public record.

“Our approach to advertising regulation is that prevention is better than cure. The ruling not only serves to highlight where the advertiser went wrong, it reminds all advertisers in that sector where the line is drawn. It should be taken into account when planning future campaigns.”

So while banning a dead commercial achieves nothing, the process itself isn’t completely pointless. Although I find it amazing the entire song-and-dance of adjudication in this particular instance was prompted by the advert receiving just two complaints.

You can find full details of the ASA adjudication here.

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