ASA issues new guidance on mobile gaming advertising

The guidance aims to address common concerns about the state of app advertising

ASA issues new guidance on mobile gaming advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued new guidance for mobile-gaming advertisements, with the aim of educating advertisers in understanding the current regulations.

“The publication of this guidance provides a useful reminder to the mobile-gaming industry of the strict rules surrounding advertising,” said law firm Osborne Clarke in a blog post discussing the guidance. “The issues highlighted in the guidance – particularly in relation to avoiding harmful and offensive content, accurate targeting, and ensuring that audience expectations are met in relation to the description of the game – are the areas that the ASA has been focusing on in relation to enforcement in the games sector. They are also, potentially, the areas that the regulator will have been dealing with questions about and will likely continue to concentrate on in the immediate future."

"Advertisers in the mobile-gaming industry should therefore continue to ensure that their adverts are compliant in these areas of focus and that they keep up-to-date with any further developments and projects that can often affect the content of games and their ad campaigns.”

At present, the ASA don’t have a system of precedent to deal with complaints from either consumers or competitors, deciding the outcome of each investigation on a case-by-case basis. The aim of the guidance is to provide a better understanding on the group’s current views on the best practices.

Marketers should be mindful before choosing to include sexual content in advertising, as there is a risk of breaching the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code), or UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code), or both. Although such content can be ruled as in-line with the code, using nudity or sexual content purely to titilate the audience, especially in cases where the content can be misleading, is in breach of the CAP code.

Responsibility in advertising

Advertisers should also make note of specific rules regarding sexualising characters who are or appear to be below 18. This has been an issue particularly in anime or manga-based games, with the group taking action against Oasis Games in September following complaints about an ad for Refantasia: Charm and Conquer where a sexually objectified character is referred to as a little girl.

The ASA also advises against advertising content which depicts assault or abuse, especially in a way which can be seen as trivialising, or even condoning it.

As well as the content of advertising, marketers should also be wary of the placement to ensure that their ads are more likely to be seen by the target audience. Not only should advertisers steer clear of promoting games with adult content in games likely to be accessed by underaged users, they should also be careful to advertise such titles within related content.

The guidance also states that ads should be reflective of the gameplay to ensure that consumers have a good idea of what the game entails before downloading it.

 Earlier this year, Rovio UA Team Lead Claire Rozian wrote a guest article on humiliation in advertising.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.