ASA bans Mobile Strike ad for objectifying women

Machine Zone's latest YouTube video shows women playing the game by the pool in bikinis

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ordered the takedown of a YouTube ad for Machine Zone's Mobile Strike as it objectifies women.

The ad features two women in bikinis playing the game on sun loungers, before a third woman walks towards them and joins the game.

A complaint made to the ASA said the ad was offensive for objectifying women. Machine Zone denied this. It stated that the game - being on mobile - can be played anywhere, hence the pool setting. The firm stated that it "believed the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool (i.e. relax and lounge) with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the ad so striking. That theme was used in other ads for the game - for example, players battling one another in cafes, restaurants and the launderette. The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in everyday, sometimes boring, spaces."

It also denied objectifying women because of the setting, and that it believed it wouldn't have received the complaint had the women been 'typically thin models'. The ad features 'real-sized' women to give the impression of mythical warrior women such as Wonder Woman. The use of 'real-sized women', Machine Zone told the ASA, was a nod to its diverse play base.

Machine Zone said that the ad, which has been running for several months, had not received a previous complaint and had been praised by fans for featuring real-sized women. YouTube stated it did not violate their advertising policies.

However, ASA didn't agree with Machine Zone's take on the ad. It said: "The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised - a combat-themed mobile game app. We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or sexually-charged. For example, in one scene, a woman wearing a thong bikini was seen walking towards a sun lounger and the camera angle was taken from below and behind so that as she walked into the scene, only her legs and her thong bikini bottoms were in view.

"We noted that another scene featuring one of the women wearing a swimsuit was shot in slow motion, and the emphasis was on her body rather than the mobile game app she was playing. One of the camera angles was shot side-on which highlighted her waist and chest. As she approached the camera, she flicked her hair back, stopped and looked seductively into the camera. We noted that the ad featured plus-sized models but we considered that fact was irrelevant. For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women and was therefore offensive."

The ASA said the ad must not be shown again in its current form.

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Latest comments (4)

Nathan Fouts President, Mommy's Best GamesA year ago
Hey Christopher Dring, do you know if the linked video (in the article) is the one that is banned?
Or is it an edited version?
I mean I guess in theory, I see the scenes the ASA text describes, but in tone, I'm not seeing a problem. I don't think any of problems they are reading into it exist. Even the ending where the final woman flicks her hair, it reads a lot more "confident and proud" than "come hither."
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer A year ago
This is censorship based on highly subjective measures. We're walking a very dangerous path here.
We need to keep these "standards authorities" in line, otherwise it's back to the dark ages.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser A year ago
As someone who watches Olivia Jensen's youtube videos every now and then I guarantee that she and the other two ladies would consider this ad tame and absolutely not objectifying towards women. I also found it refreshing that they used plus sized models instead of the opposite.

Personally I don't find it objectifying but I suppose some women would because of either the attire or the tone. But to me it just looked like three women having fun playing a mobile game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 7th April 2017 3:17am

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer A year ago
Yeah, for a while now there have organized groups of misogynists reporting anything vaguely feminist on YouTube, including such horrible sexisms as ads from a sanitary towel company telling young girls that being female doesn't automatically mean they have no motor control and must flail around terribly and be incapable of sports.

While it's hard not to expect a feeble excuse for any ad involving women in swimwear - after all, we've been hearing them for decades ("The bouncing breasts of the volleyball players represent the bubbles in our beer" etc) - well... I do think the choice of models in swimwear is probably not directly to do with the game, but more to appeal to people with a certain attitude. And in this case, that attitude is:

"*&^% off, it's my body."

The way the approach of the "third challenger" is shot is just like the shots of the enemy's greatest champion appearing over a hill/ridge/out of the castle to fight the hero in old fantasy/Greco-Roman films, right down to the heavy note applied to each dramatic footfall. It does seem to tally up with the producer's assertion that they're aiming for a warrior goddess vibe. And she wears a swimsuit as her version of the sundry leather straps that usually adorn the large, muscular man stomping into the post-apocalyptic arena.

The context of the ad overall shows us three bigger women playing a game together, challenging each other and not worrying about their weight, which you only have to look at the comments on a big woman's photo to know is a cardinal sin to some.

Specifically, looking at the "butt shot", while it could be considered male-gazey, it doesn't linger and pan upwards like the standard "Mmm, bottoms" shot. It seems more about picking that moment of a somewhat jiggly step, and coupled with the vibe of the rest of the advert, it's not there to pander to the viewer but to challenge them.

"Yes, I have a big bottom. SO WHAT?"

Women are a big demographic for mobile games, and women, by and large, are going to have one or more body elements similar to the models in this advert, especially since the Pill became popular (Where are my breasts? Oh, they're over the other side of the room. Thanks, Marvellon.). Even those who actually look like typical size 10-12 models, are very likely to think they look "plus size".

So to me, at least on a single viewing, it looks to me like the advert is reaching out to those women in their potential audience and saying "Look at these three women like you who are playing our game together. Blow some stuff up with a helicopter and forget worrying about your body for a while."

Maybe I missed something, maybe the ad uses tropes I've not seen since I stopped watching ad-supported TV, but others have and recognized. I might be misreading it totally or being overly kind, but right now, my impression of this advert is that it's a very positive message.
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