Gaming firm Electronic Arts has been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a poster for Burnout Dominator that showed a wrecked sports car under the headline 'Inner peace through outer violence'.
The ads, which were shown on the London Underground, attracted a barrage of complaints objecting that the depiction of violence was offensive and likely to encourage dangerous driving and anti-social behaviour.
Electronic Arts said in its defence that the intention of the campaign was to reflect the consumer experience within the game environment, addressing in particular the idea that playing the game might help relieve the stress and tension of the real world.
The company believed that it was obvious that the ad was for a video game and, as such, would not be seen to support real-life violence.
Electronic Arts added that the ad intentionally featured no people and thus focused directly on the destruction seen in the game rather than on violence against people in real life.
However, the ASA dismissed these claims, noting that the poster appeared in an untargeted medium.
"We considered that the vivid depiction of the crashed car and the burning tyre, combined with the slogan's implication that people could achieve inner peace through acts of violence, was likely to cause serious or widespread offence," the watchdog stated.
The ASA noted Electronic Arts' argument that the ad's message was that playing Burnout Dominator might relieve stress and tension in real life. But it still went on to ban the advertisement.
"We considered that the ad's placement on the London Underground meant that it would be viewed by many, including young, people," the ruling stated.
"We considered that the images of a car that seems to have crashed at high speed and a burning tyre, together with a reference to violence, could be seen to condone a violent lifestyle, anti-social behaviour or dangerous driving. We concluded that the ad was irresponsible."
Electronic Arts has been told that the ad must not reappear in its current form.
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