Not ASA bad as it looks

Thanks to a diligent Reddit user and complainant, No Man Sky is finally getting the punishment it deserves… Look, I don’t get the gamer hatred of Sean Murray and No Man Sky. But I do have experience of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), which is the UK’s advertising regulator. My own experience related to the research commissioned and produced by me in the day job and how it was used in the client’s advertising. The complainant was one of the mobile network providers and the customer another and the complainant was up-held.

So what happened? Nothing, as with the examples (GTA5 and House of the Dead) highlighted in The Know’s coverage of the ASA’s investigation, the result of any unfavourable ruling by the UK’s advertising regulator is: The removal of material making false statements.

The same was true with my network provider client, but at this point the advertising has been run and the message has been received to its intended audience.

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Fight the power! via China Law Blog

Unlike our hero Redditer, AzzerUK – most ASA complainants are rival companies. And these competitors understand what the ASA can do, which is removing in-flight adverts with misleading statements which are resulting in a loss of business to their rivals. The ASA doesn’t have any ability to punish nor can it set precedent which could result legal action. The Eurogamer interview states that AzzerUK thinks that “most people on the Reddit thread wanted to see Hello Games ‘punished’ directly though, rather than share my more generalised view that the game’s marketing needs to be brought down to earth a bit more.”

I’d congratulate AzzerUK for understanding the remit of the ASA. They are correct in asking for the ASA to investigate current advertising, in particular that which is found on the Steam page. The Sean Murray-hate brigade shouldn’t expect the ASA to refund them based on their ruling. The fact is, is that regardless of pre-release advertising this is permitted, if it is in scope of the original product brief.

Whilst No Man’s Sky doesn’t offer multiplayer, I’m certain it was in the original games scope but commercial and technical pressures meant it could not feature in the final product. This type of advertising will continue, my client still exists today (it’s one of the UK’s biggest mobile phone companies). And the company is even considering running a very similar advert again, against my own advice!

This type of misleading advertising will continue in video games as it does with other sectors. For consumers, take it with a pinch of salt. And for video game producers and marketers, remember this practise will continue but examples like CD Projekt Red prove that be honest with your consumers breeds trust and is great for business.


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