Atari slapped on the wrist for 'offensive' advertisement

Publisher Atari has had a complaint against its print advertising upheld by the UK Advertising Standards Authority, after a reader of Aware magazine objected to an "offensive and unsuitable" videogame ad.

The advertisement, believed to be for the recent Xbox version of lightgun title House of the Dead (which was published by Atari in the UK on behalf of Sega), featured an image of a corpse with two bullet wounds in it and its hands tied above its head, along with the phrase "the only good zombie is a dead zombie" in childish writing.

The ASA upheld a complaint about the ad, stating that it was "likely to cause serious or widespread offence" despite Atari's claim that the creative was intended to amuse, and that people were unlikely to be offended by the blue body make-up and fake blood on the zombie. Atari was ordered not to use the advertisement again, and to consult with the committee of advertising practice before running similar ads.

"This case shows how the increasing popularity of games and the greater media spend necessary to keep up their promotion bring new risks," commented Alex Chapman from legal firm Briffa. "Games advertisers have often sailed close to the wind but now that games are a much bigger part of the mainstream they have to be much more careful."

Indeed, Atari's advertisement might seem tame by comparison with some other advertising used by the games industry, with Capcom's original Resident Evil campaign being a good case in point - but according to Chapman, the penalties for breaching ASA guidelines can still be severe.

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