ASA dismisses Change4Life ad complaints

Ad does not harm the videogame industry, mislead parents or cause offence, says Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed complaints that the Government's Change4Life campaign harms the videogame industry in the UK, is misleading to parents or offensive to readers.

The campaign features a child holding a games controller underneath the slogan: "Risk an early death, just do nothing."

UK developer body Tiga had issued a complaint to the ASA claiming the ads were "absurd and insulting" and offensive to the games community.

Retail trade paper MCV had launched a campaign against the ad, arguing it was unrepresentative of the positive effects of videogames, urging readers to complain to the ASA and supplying a hi-resolution copy of the ad for for those that visited its website.

However, the ASA has sent a reply to those that complained, noting that the ads do not claim playing videogames is harmful, and the image was used for illustrative purposes.

"Whilst the ASA Council understood the concerns of Tiga and those complainants who worked in the videogames industry, it noted that the ad did not claim that playing computer or console games alone would lead to illness or premature death," wrote the ASA.

"The Council considered that most readers would understand that the ad was discouraging a sedentary lifestyle and used the example of playing a console game as an illustration of the type of behaviour which might lead to long-term health problems if no exercise were taken alongside more sedentary activities.

"The Council considered it unlikely that most readers would infer from the ad that playing videogames was the sole contributory factor in the development of the health problems mentioned in the ad."

It concluded that "the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or mislead for those reasons, or likely to be seen as unfairly targeting or denigrating the videogames industry."

The ASA said that readers of the ad would understand that it was not an anti-videogames message, and that it encouraging the adoption of a more active lifestyle, rather than targeting a cause of obesity.

"The Council noted that the ad did not imply that children should not play videogames at all, or that some games would not be beneficial for educational or cognitive development.

"We also noted that the ad advised parents to ensure their children were physically active for at least one hour every day. The Council considered that most readers were unlikely to interpret the ad to mean that videogames could not be played or enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle.

"The Council did not consider the ad likely to mislead readers about the benefits of some videogames towards fitness and cognitive development in children or to cause offence for that reason."

The Change4Life campaign was backed by The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research and Diabetes UK, and following a meeting with government, publisher association ELSPA said that it will continue to educate non government associations on the positive benefits of videogames.

The ASA stated the ad did not offend accepted social standards, and it would not investigate a complaint based on bad taste.

"Complaints about offence often require difficult judgements but we don’t intervene where advertising is simply criticised for being in poor taste.

"Apart from freedom of speech considerations, even well-intentioned and thoughtful people will have different and sometimes contradictory opinions about what constitutes ‘bad taste’ or should be prohibited. We can only act if the ad, in our judgement, offends against widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards."

Latest comments (5)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
The ASA is 100% incorrect on their assessment. I've already shown the ad to several people not directly involved in the games industry in any manner and their initial reaction was a negative connotation that video games may lead to an early death. A sedentary lifestyle was not at the forefront of their thoughts.

"We can only act if the ad, in our judgement, offends against widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards."

So gamers are relegated back to lower class citizens.

The C4L ad should have done a much better job conveying its intentions.
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Glenn Flanagan Creative Director, Arctic Tiger Ltd8 years ago
I think every games company should realease an advert with a picture of Gordon Brown on and above have the headline "Want HIV? Just sleep around!" and see if the government complains to the ASA then. It's the same type of advertising but according to the ASA we wouldn't be damaging Gordon Brown's image or reputation would we!
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Lars Vormann Projectmanager Games, Much More GmbH8 years ago just made my day! :)
How right you are!

And now I need to find a rag to clean the coffee of my screen!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lars Vormann on 19th March 2009 2:00pm

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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames8 years ago
Do you think they ( ASA ) would have said the same thing if the kid was reading a book and the publishing ( book ) industry complained ?
Sitting still and reading a book is fine. Sitting down ( and not very often still ) and playing a game makes you fat ? Does it ?
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Perhaps we should set up a "Run From The Cops" health activity campaign and see if they'll endorse it.
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