The Advertising Standards Authority acts on sexist mobile ads

The Advertising Standards Authority acts on sexist mobile ads
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The UK Advertising Standards Board has found that several mobile game ads are likely to provoke “serious or widespread offense” due to harmful gender stereotypes.

An advertisement for a game, Refantasia: Charm and Conquer, reportedly featured an “anime-like image of a young woman in a cage” bound and with her clothes torn, which drew particular criticism.

Captions referred to “my master” and were accompanied by text describing the person as a “little girl.” The ASA judged the character as someone under 18 portrayed in a sexual manner.

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In response, Refantasia’s developer Oasis Games said it was a Chinese company that publishes games internationally and conducted an investigation that “uncovered a discrepancy between its marketing team and its localization team,” which it has now “taken action on.”

The app icon for Refantasia: Charm and Conquer.

The app icon for Refantasia: Charm and Conquer.

The company apologized for the ad, which appeared on Twitter. Twitter said it was unable to locate the ad because it was a self-sponsored tweet, which was subsequently removed with no further comment.

Another ad, this time for a game called “King’s Throne: Game of Conquest,” in which two women in lingerie acted as quiz show hosts, was next to missing-letter words like “D_CK.”

A third, for Airline Commander: Flight Game, featured a video of porn actress Mia Malkova in a “revealing cowboy outfit,” encouraging users to download and play the game.

In all cases, the ASA ruled the ads were not allowed to reappear, with the developers of those games warning against using sexist stereotypes that objectify and sexualize women.

“Today’s ASA decisions include several decisions about game studios using sexualized advertising to attract new users,” Kostyantyn Lobov, games attorney for Harbottle & Lewis, told Eurogamer today. “The ASA has recently criticized mobile game companies for using (or allowing them to appear in their games) ads of this nature that objectify women and perpetuate harmful tropes.

“Occasionally, the ASA focuses on a specific issue or sector (or a combination of both) and issues a barrage of decisions in a short space of time. That’s what we’re seeing right now with these judgments and the most recent judgments against Higgs Technology and an Infinity 8 Ball ad that’s being featured in Angry Birds 2.

“The mobile gaming space is notoriously competitive, but at the same time it can be incredibly lucrative. Mobile game development tends to have a much faster turnaround time, and whether a game lives or dies entirely depends on how many users it can attract in a short period of time, saving time while spending as little money as possible. In such an environment, it is perhaps not surprising that such ads sometimes pop up. When that happens, it can lead to unwanted media attention and PR, a whole lot for both the studio and the industry.”

Each week, the ASA publishes a list of cases where it has made a formal decision on ads that it believes have broken the rules.

Equally interesting, if more opaque, is a list of known companies with whom issues have been “informally resolved” — usually because these companies have tacitly agreed to amend or withdraw offending ads before a formal investigation takes place.

As of last week, that list included Samsung, Currys Group, Boohoo, British Gas, B&M and Carlsberg, among others.

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