The Advertising Standards Authority over in the U.K., deemed an ad from Machine Zone as offensive, and had it banned on the grounds of being sexually objectifying toward women.
The ad aired back in spring of 2016, featuring three plus-sized women playing the game Mobile Strike, a typical free-to-play, base-building PvP game. The ad is a minute long, sporting three swimsuit-clad, plus-sized models battling it out in Machine Zone’s freemium PvP game. There are tanks and helicopters flying around, superimposed over the live-action foreground and background shots where the models are, giving the impression that the game has come to life.
You can see the ad below.
According to the ASA, they’ve deemed the ad offensive and sexually objectifying.
“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.
“[…] 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.”
Machine Zone had previously replied stating that the ad was showing that you could play Mobile Strike anywhere, including lounging around in a bikini while sitting in a lawn chair.
To their credit, the ad at least featured some images of the game’s units in the real world while the women dueled in the actual game.
There have been plenty of commercials like this in the past, or themed commercials that didn’t necessarily have to do with the game or a product, like this old commercial of a kid being bullied who then turns into a bully after getting his hands on a Sega Genesis.
Or how about the Super Mario World 2 commercial where a fat guy explodes and his insides land on everybody in the shop?
I guess it’s good the ASA wasn’t overseeing broadcasting media back in the 1990s or we never would have had that gem.
Then again even after the ASA took over for broadcast and online commercial media, they haven’t entirely been consistent with doling out punishments. They did come down on Electronic Arts for Dungeon Keeper for misleading people about the requirement of microtrnasctions, but the ASA gave Hello Games a pass on No Man’s Sky, saying that the promotional advertising for the game was not misleading or dishonest, much to the shock and dismay of most gamers.
What’s odd here is that on the opposite end of the spectrum, Machine Zone received various amounts of criticism from the media for sexual objectifying Kate Upton in their Game of War: Fire Age commercials. The typical labels of “sexism” and “male gaze” were used to describe the company for running the ad, like in this piece from GameCrate.
However, using plus-sized models for the sake of “diversity” still didn’t score Machine Zone any points for their mobile game, Mobile Strike, from the typical SocJus crowd. Well… they didn’t receive much love from the media, but Machine Zone told the ASA that the ad garnered a lot of support from their user base, which is explained in the report by the ASA…
“[Machine Zone] said they had run the ad globally for a number of months and had not received any other complaints about it. In fact, they said they had received considerable support from their players for featuring real-sized women in their ad, as they were often under represented.”
I suppose if you can’t win you may as well go all in… something that THQ did for Juiced.
I can only imagine what the ASA would say about that commercial if they had an issue with plus-sized models playing a game while wearing swimwear.