Watchdog Group Rejects Complaint Over “Early Death” Ad

Over the years, video games have been linked to societal ills ranging from poor academic performance to extreme antisocial behavior.  So perhaps it came as no surprise when the game industry reacted poorly to U.K. health group Change4Life’s “Early Death” ad which visually linked the sedentary nature of video game play to dying before one’s time.

Several game industry types spoke out against the ad while trade magazine MCV and trade association Tiga (representing UK game developers) went as far as to submit official complaints with U.K. ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority.

Less than two weeks later, the ASA has decided not to take any action against the ad. In its ruling the ASA said:

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.

Interestingly, the ASA also said that it received a complaint from someone not affiliated with the video game industry:

One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games. The ASA Council sympathised with those concerns and understood that the reference to future health might, for some, be upsetting. However, it considered that the ad was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to parents or children.

You can read the ASA’s entire response at MCV.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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  1. TBoneTony says:

    Well, that is the umpire’s/refferee’s desicion.

    I guess we can all just get on with the game and just play videogames. Don’t listen to those people who try to make us feel bad then.

    They can say what they like about Videogames. But it does not mean that I am not going to play them just because of what these people say.


  2. gamadaya says:

    Eh, big deal. So they made a dumb add. I can’t see it hurting the game industry, or even really the image of gamers in the long run.


    Believe in something! Even if it’s wrong, believe in it! -Glenn Beck

  3. State says:

    I’m saying that this advert isn’t exceptional, a lot of adverts are like this, there is nothing making this a special advert. This is not what many want to believe, part of an anti-gaming conspiracy. For us in the UK we’ve seen it all before (negative health campaigns) and are used to it. A few gamers complaining about this advert won’t make an ounce of difference to the style that the government takes for its health campaigns. Anyway I can’t see a problem with a negative campaign, I mean it’s not like a positive campaign isn’t the same sort of propaganda.

  4. State says:

    You obviously haven’t seen any of the other health campaigns in the UK or the safe driving campaigns. Nearly all use scare tactics, and the mentioned ads are very mild when compared to other adverts we have (particularly the safe driving adverts that like to show lots of dead children), the safe drinking adverts also tend to show quite a bit of gore.

    And that is one of the problems with the Americans viewing this advert, they don’t understand the surrounding culture (particularly that with health campaigns) and also that of a more liberal society and media. Although of course I’m not saying that you’re not allowed to comment on such matters, but a further understanding of the culture helps to understand the context that this advert exists in.

  5. Vash-HT says:

    I do have to agree wtih you on that, the last thing I would want my kids worrying about is an early death (if I had any), positively reinforcing exercise and being acitve is a far better tactic than scare campaigns like this.

  6. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I am still offended by this ad. Not because of the negative portrayal of gaming and eating cake, but of the negative imagery used in the campaign as a whole.

    I nthe US we have several successful youth excercise and healthy eating campaigns that do not resort to such shock advertising. They have ads of kids having fun while playing outside. They have ads with kids enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables. They have no need to go negative, because there are plenty of ways to use positive reinforcement for their goals.

    After having read the UK’s advertising standards, I think this ad is in violation of them simply becausee it is using blatant scare tactics. Had this ad been produced by anyone less high profile than the Change4Life, they probably would have pulled it.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
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  7. Zero Beat says:

    Yep, but here’s the part that’s simply offensive to me.  Those complaints were made by adults that were worried that the ads might scare children.


    At least one complaint on this ad came from the parent of a kid.  The kid was afraid that she was going to die soon because she played video games.  Then the advertising standards agency said the ad wasn’t likely to cause anyone undue stress and anxiety.


    Frankly, England should be banned.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  8. Monte says:

     Indeed… it’s essentially what the game industry was worried about and that what the group behind the ad said would not happen.

  9. OmegaWarrior says:

    Doesn’t the second quote invalidate the first?  Obviously it wasn’t clear that the ad was about a ‘sedintary lifestyle."

  10. insanejedi says:

    When you use a book though, people assume "oh, he’s just enriching his mind" but tilt the book up about 90* and you see that he is reading Mein Kampf, suddenly it’s not so enriching anymore. Oh look, Jimmy is reading The Communist Manifesto!

  11. GusTav2 says:

    As the ASA said – the image was an illustration of the point about a sedentary lifestyle.

    As an illustration the image chosen was of one sedentary activity – the fact it could have chosen others does not per se invalidate the choice it made.

    Are you suggesting limiting freedom of expression in such a way that I cannot state an illustrative example unless I also state all possible examples?

  12. barra_sadei says:

    "One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games."

    That, quite honestly, is harmful. And highly disturbing, as the parent doesn’t see anything wrong with her own child being scared of dying. I hope that parent explained what the ad was really saying…

  13. Vake Xeacons says:

     "Most readers would understand that the ad was discouraging a sedentary lifestyle…"

    Then why use video games? What does cybernatography have to do with a sedentary lifestyle? Why not use TV? Or books! 

    Continuing to relate games to sloth and obesity: THAT’S the problem right there.

  14. GusTav2 says:

    As I suspected. The text in the ad was factual and not particularly controversial. Most of the complaints were about the headline and the implication of the image – the fact that some were offended is not enough to limit basic freedom of expression.

    The ASA were always going to look at the whole thing. They were therefore unlikely to take any action.

  15. Vash-HT says:

    Meh I wasn’t really offended by this ad, it’s not like it’s the only one they’ve made for this campaign. On a side note though, wouldn’t it be far more effective if they showed some fat kid playing? I see plenty of fat little kids walking around (surprise they usually have fat parents…) but they show a kid who doesn’t really look like his health is suffering or anything.

  16. State says:

    Well they didn’t, stop assuming that they believe in certain things when they haven’t said so, this is the reason why the games industry didn’t like the advert and gamers believe in an anti-gaming campaign, because they are reading more into it.

    One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games.

    I find this hard to believe. Wouldn’t suprise me if this actually came from one of the games companies themselves as the advert has had limited release at this point. (Although I am technically guilty of the above, believing more than what there really is).

  17. nighstalker160 says:

    While I agree with the ASA over this issue, I can’t help but wonder if they would have rejected action if the kid had been watching movies in the ad or would they have said something like:

    "Cinema, being a legitimate and culturally valuable expression or art is unfairly disparaged in this ad. Perhaps if the ad contained a wholly valueless activity, such as playing video games, it would have made its point without infringing on an art form."

  18. DorkmasterFlek says:

    I have to agree with them on this one.  The ad isn’t anything to get worked up over when there’s far more important things to get mad about.  Like, say, the absence of an 18+ rating for Australian video games or more Jack Thompson-authored video game legislation.  😛

  19. Doomsong says:

    You just gotta love when any fascist group supports their own actions with the old "It’s ok, we mean well" excuse. It’s no news that an overly sedentary lifestyle can lead to health problems, and it’s sad that this group (like most others) defends a purposely written scare tactic that does nothing but make the idiots who listen to these people panic.

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" – Benjamin Franklin

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