Torture video Email lands games publisher in hot water

Games publisher Vivendi Universal is in trouble with the advertising watchdog about 'distressing' fake footage of a prisoner being tortured it sent in an Email promoting its 'Cold Winter' game for PlayStation2.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaints of two people who found the video clip offensive and distressing. It asked Vivendi Universal not to repeat the approach and to consult the CAP copy advice team before producing similar advertising.

The company had sent out two similar Emails, created by an agency called Making Waves, ahead of the first-person shooter game's release on June 3.

They contained a clip showing the lead character Sterling, a disavowed MI6 secret agent, in the game being tortured with a knife in a Chinese prison.

They purported to come from someone who had received the anonymous clip and was sending it to people following the campaign for the prisoner's safe return. The campaign was being conducted via a Website referenced in the Email.

Vivendi said the Email was only sent to people over 18 years old and the game itself had a BBFC rating of 18. It said the Website mentioned in the mailing was designed to inspire debate as to whether the campaign to "Free Sterling" was genuine and that they had included a BBFC 18+ logo on the Website to show that the campaign was an ad.

The ASA noted the email was only sent to people over the age of 18, but still found the scenes too violent.

"The authority nevertheless considered that, because it depicted a violent interrogation and torture, the advertisement was likely to cause serious offence," it said.

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