Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Activision's military shooter that was released late last year and quickly went on to shatter every conceivable record imaginable for the entertainment industry hit a roadblock Wednesday in the form of an ruling by the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against the company airing daytime TV ads for the shooter. In the ASA's words, the ad (included below) depicts computer-generated scenes of New York under military assault, with buildings exploding and catching fire, soldiers loading guns and a submarine firing rockets, in addition to armed men firing at a lorry and further scenes of armed warfare and destruction, including soldiers firing weapons, military vehicles firing rockets at buildings and explosions.
The original two complaints that attracted the ASA ruling were were concerned less specifically with the content than the timing of the ad, which aired at 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon during Nov. 6 Premier League football match on Sky Sports 1. The Guardian reports the complaints argued that violent ads should not be aired at any time when children could possibly be watching them, particularly during something as possible as a Premier football match.
At the time, the only restriction placed on the TV spot was that it could not be broadcast during or adjacent to programs designed or likely to appeal to viewers under the age of 16. Activision therefore responded to the original complaint by highlighting that the company followed the original guidelines it had received from the ASA, even producing a revised edit specifically for the time slot, MCV reports. The ad had also been given a PG rating by the British Board of Fim Classification.
Despite this sound logic, the ASA ruled against the publisher, stating, We considered that the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children who might see the ad. Although we noted that the ad was only shown during the football, we concluded that it was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when young children might be watching and the ex-kids restriction was insufficient. We considered a post 7.30 p.m. restriction would have been more appropriate.
MCV notes that the only consequence of this ruling is that the company will not be allowed to broadcast the ad again any earlier than 7:30 p.m. This presumably is of no consequence at all as Call of Duty advertising has already turned its attention to November's Black Ops II. And seeing as Call of Duty has the peculiar ability to make more money than anything else in the world ever, this might be of little concern.
The longer-term implication, however, concerns Black Ops II. Promotional material for the game so far has promised that it will bring big changes to the series including a writing credit from one of The Dark Knight screenwriters and music from David Fincher favorite and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. All of these changes are certainly pushing the series in a much darker, more mature direction that can only provoke stronger reactions from organizations like the ASA. Activision probably doesn't have to worry too much about Call of Duty sales figures. But as the publisher of one of the most popular brands in an endlessly controversial enterainment platform, the company should still be concerned with decency regulations and angry parents.