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Video game ad banned for 'realistic' violence

Stranglehold promo strangled

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An advert for a computer game has been banned from television. The advert for Stranglehold had realistic violence, constant gunfire and condoned violence, according to ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA responded to two complaints about the promotional clip for the game, which is endorsed by martial arts director John Woo. One person complained that the advert glorified gun violence and could affect susceptible people. Another said their three-year-old son had seen the ad when it was shown before the 9pm television watershed.

The advertising agency behind the ad, Picture Production Company, said it believed it was clear the footage was animation and not realistic, and that nobody was seen to be shot because bullets were fired into the air in the clip.

The ASA did not accept its arguments. "The ASA noted that the shooting was almost continuous throughout the ad and considered that the violence depicted, although computer-generated, was realistic in appearance," said its ruling.

"We considered the voice-over, which stated 'Honour is his code. Vengeance is his mission. Violence is his only option,' suggested that it was honourable to seek revenge and that violence was an acceptable solution to a situation."

Picture Production Company said it had submitted the advert to Clearcast and had received approval to show it. Clearcast is a company owned by the major broadcasters which carries out pre-broadcast clearing of adverts using the ASA's rules as guidance.

It said it thought the violence unrealistic and stylised, and that the ad could be shown because there was no interpersonal or gory violence. It said it had recommended showing the advert only after 7.30pm.

The ASA also rejected Clearcast's assessment. "We considered the ad was likely to be seen as encouraging and condoning violence. Because the issues raised by the ad could not be addressed with a timing restriction, we considered the only solution was to withdraw the ad from transmission completely," said the ruling.

The ASA ordered Stranglehold publisher Midway Games not to re-broadcast the advert because it broke the Advertising Code's rules on violence and cruelty and its rules on health and safety.

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