Watchdog dismisses complaint suggesting ad for video game Watch Dogs was ‘intimidating’

Watch Dogs

A similar image to the outdoor poster

The Ad Standards Board has dismissed a complaint against an outdoor ad for controversial Ubisoft video game Watch Dogs which claimed it was “intimidating” and normalised guns.

The poster depicted the game’s character Aiden Pierce standing in the street of Chicago wearing mask and holding a mobile phone in one hand and a gun in the other.

Ubisoft caused controversy in May when it sent journalists a locked safe as a promotion for the game. The stunt resulted in the bomb squad being called to Australia Square and Ninemsn staff evacuated from officesafter a black safe.

The complaint to the ASB said the ad was displayed on a bus shelter outside a high school, adding it prompted their own children to ask about guns. They added: “Why is an R rated game advertised in bus shelters, particularly around schools? I can monitor and restrict where my children go in a store, what advertising they see on TV or what magazines they read, but public space advertising like this should always be suitable for all audiences that see it.”

Ubisoft defended the ad, telling the ASB the game is not aimed at children, however did concede some people could perceive the ad was threatening.

They said: “Watch Dogs is not aimed at children, but at experienced adult gamers and was rated accordingly by the Classification Board, an official Australian Government agency. In this case Watch Dogs was rated R.

“Care was taken to ensure creative was not too menacing or threatening, however we  understand the concerns expressed by the complainant. We will be more mindful of this when planning future mature themed games by requesting advertising material of R rated games are not positioned near schools.”

In its ruling, the board noted that while “the man is pointing a gun he does not look menacing and there is a clear association being made with the television series being promoted (sic)”.

It was the board’s view that “most members of the community would be unlikely to interpret the image as a real life situation” and while it was a billboard and could potentially be seen by children, the board considered “that the image does not portray explicit violence” and was relevant to the advertised product.

The board ruled that “the image is not so strong as to be inappropriate for general viewing”, dismissing the complaint.

Miranda Ward


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