Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Advert Too Scary for Kids Rules ASA
The ASA rules against Activision in a case involving a daytime television ad for "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3." How will this impact future marketing for the next installment in the "Call of Duty" franchise, "Black Ops 2?"

A television advert for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 videogame has been ruled too scary for children by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following two complaints.

The ad was passed for broadcast with the restriction that it should not be shown during, or adjacent to, programmes commissioned for, directed at or likely to appeal to viewers below the age of 16 years.

The ad was broadcast at 2.30pm on Sunday 6 November, 2011 on Sky Sports 1, during a Premier League football match.

Two viewers challenged whether the ad was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when children would be watching and one of those viewers reported that their children, aged between two and four, had been frightened by it.

In its response to the complaint, game developer Activision said it understood the transmission of the ad during the football match fell within the ex-kids restriction.

"[Activision] explained that the ad was a specially revised edit to satisfy the ex-kids football spots that were booked as part of the campaign. They said it was a full gameplay ad with all violent and threatening content removed. They said the ad was also rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for in-store use and had been given a PG certificate," the ASA ruling said.

In its decision, the ASA noted that even though the ad was only shown during the football the ex-kids restriction was insufficient and it was inappropriate for broadcast when young children might be watching.

The complaint was upheld by the ASA and Activision has been told not to broadcast the ad again before 7.30pm.

In its report, the ASA provided two pieces of text looking at the advert in great detail. Below is its transcript of the advert itself:

"A TV ad for a computer game opened with on-screen text stating AM3RICA, followed by computer-generated scenes of New York under military assault, with buildings exploding and catching fire, soldiers loading guns and a submarine firing rockets. On-screen text stated 3NGLAND, followed by scenes of warfare in London, including armed men firing at a lorry until it crashed and a helicopter firing rockets. On-screen text then stated FRANC3, followed by scenes of Paris under attack, featuring soldiers and vehicles firing weapons. On-screen text then stated G3RMANY, followed by scenes of tanks driving down the streets, soldiers abseiling down the side of a building, planes firing overhead and a burnt-out building toppling over. A voice-over stated, "The world as you knew it is gone. How far will you go to bring it back?" The ad featured further scenes of armed warfare and destruction, including soldiers firing weapons, military vehicles firing rockets at buildings and explosions. An end-frame stated CALL OF DUTY. MW3. 08.11.11. Pre-Order Now For XBox 360 and featured the logo for certificate 18. A sound-track featured throughout the ad as well as sound effects for weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting."

Here is the ASA's explanation of why it felt this advert might be too scary for children:

"We noted the ad featured computer-generated scenes of warfare in various cities around the world. The ad contained scenes of extensive gunfire, explosions and destruction, and these scenes were accompanied by sound effects of weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting. We also noted the ad featured music in the background which sounded like a low-pitched siren and which added to the dramatic nature of the scenes. We considered that the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children who might see the ad."