British watchdog repels COD 2's ad-vances

UK advertising regulatory body bans Activision's TV promos for Call of Duty 2 games because graphics were "misleading."


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Selling a product is never easy, particularly in a burgeoning, crowded market where the competition is fierce. This is particularly true in the gaming industry, where flashy graphics and movie licenses are often enough to make a game successful. At last year's E3, the line between "hyping a game" and "duping an audience" was blurred thanks to the latest in product promotion--the "tech demo."

The Killzone 2 trailer, shown at Sony's E3 press conference, was a prime example of "tech demo" confusion. The trailer displayed jaw-dropping graphics, but presented them as though they were actual in-game footage. Controversy rose in the fallout, when gamers asked if the trailer was prerendered (strictly scripted computer graphics) or running from the game's engine (dynamic rendering based on the user's actions).

While there's still debate about that, there's no debate about recent television ads for Activision's two Call of Duty 2 games, Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360 and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. The ads, which have appeared on major cable networks, depict the game's nature--namely, that World War II was extremely intense.

The commercial's point of view is that of a WWII soldier, and largely mimics the in-game viewpoints of the first-person shooters. Scenes show soldiers scampering through a war-torn Europe, with explosions, tanks, and planes a part of the action. To most average gamers, the ads are clearly cutscenes and aren't actual gameplay. However, not everyone who watches late-night TV is the average gamer.

The Advertising Standards Authority, a UK-based independent body that governs over the country's advertising codes, has banned the ads because it has received three complaints. Three viewers felt that the games' ads were "misleading because the quality of the graphics in the ad were [sic] superior to that of the game itself."

In the ASA's weekly adjudication report, the body states that Activision felt using prerendered scenes in ads for games was standard practice, and that the company had acted in good faith. However, no one told the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, which cleared the ads for broadcast after believing the footage was from the game itself.

The report concludes by sternly stating "The ads breached CAP TV Advertising Standards Codes rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising) and 5.2.2 (Implications). They must not be shown again in their present forms." The ads will continue to run in other regions.

This isn't the first time that an Activision ad has been brought to the attention of the ASA. In 2005, a promo for Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (which Activision published in the UK) received dozens of complaints for "gratuitous violence" and "the use of the word 'hell.'" The complaints were not upheld, and the ad was permitted to run.

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