UK regulator rejects Bully ad complaints

Rockstar Games and parent company Take Two have had their fair share of run-ins with the authorities this year. In the UK, a long-running battle with the BBFC ended in victory when Manhunt 2 was granted an 18 certificate after an appeal to the Video Appeals Committee. Over in the US, Take Two...

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Rockstar Games and parent company Take Two have had their fair share of run-ins with the authorities this year. In the UK, a long-running battle with the BBFC ended in victory when Manhunt 2 was granted an 18 certificate after an appeal to the Video Appeals Committee. Over in the US, Take Two ended up taking legal action against the Chicago Transit Authority for pulling down advertising relating to Grand Theft Auto 4.

Today, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints from viewers about ads run earlier in the year for Rockstar's Bully: Scholarship Edition. The ads featured scenes from the game, including a student being given a wedgie, Hopkins kissing a girl, and the firing of a catapult. The complainants had indicated that they thought the ad was "distasteful," gave the wrong message in the current climate of problems with teenage violence, and should not be shown when it might be viewed by children.

Take Two responded that the ad was no longer running, and that it was primarily comic in nature. The company felt that "many of the complaints were directed against the name and contents of the game itself rather than the ad," according to the ASA ruling. The previous version of the game was released in the UK under the name Canis Canem Edit.

Clearcast, which screens advertisements before they are shown on television, said that "far from glorifying bullying, the aim of the game was actually to beat the bullies." It also believed that the name of the game had attracted attention to the advertisement. Clearcast had also issued an "ex-kids" restriction on the advert, meaning that it could not be shown during programmes that have under-15s as more than 30 percent of their audience.

The ASA did not uphold any of the complaints. The body felt that the ad was "unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence," even if many people might feel the game itself was in poor taste. It also "considered that viewers were unlikely to draw a direct analogy between the computer-generated, stereotyped school setting and contemporary society," and did not find any breaches of the restrictions placed on the broadcasting of the advert.

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