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A spoof army call-up text message has been banned by advertising watchdogs because of the distress it could cause.

Computer games company Eidos, of Lara Croft fame, used the text message to plug its latest PC game Commandos 2.

The message read "Please report to your local army recruitment centre immediately for your 2nd tour of duty. Commandos 2 on PC, It's More Real Than Real Life - out today from Eidos".

A former member of the British Army made the complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). He feared it was a real call-up, and thought the message could cause undue distress to people at a time when there is a war against terrorism.

Eidos has said it was meant to be a joke and apologised for any distress caused by the insensitivity of the text message. It gave its assurance that it would not repeat the campaign.

But why would it need to. The advert has done its job. Computer games companies are no strangers to making shock advertising, and the publicity garnered from a ban is often better than the original campaign.

Here are some other notorious examples of games companies getting a lot of publicity and a small wrap on the knuckles for their campaigns:

  • Bags of dripping offal were sent to various journalists to publicise Doom II. Chanel suits were ruined, the police got involved, and the stunt was awarded second place in the Evening Standard's Hall of Shame that year.
  • The poster campaign for Virgin Interactive Entertainment's Command & Conquer showed pictures of major despots and genocidal maniacs, calling them previous high scorers of the game. Alongside Hitler and Stalin was Jacques Chirac, the French President who'd just overseen some nuclear testing in the Pacific. The ad was banned, and an international incident was narrowly averted.
  • Images of semi-naked women are often used to sell things. But with zero subtlety and imagination a company called Gametek used a picture of model Jo Guest clamping a box of Battlecruiser 3000AD between her legs to promote the game. The tag line was 'She really wants it'. The ASA didn't. ®

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