The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is understood to be investigating the latest online viral campaign for Midway Games’ Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The ASA has stepped in after receiving a complaint that the viral video includes scenes of extreme violence.
In the live-action video, a business meeting results in a no-holds-barred fight on the boardroom table. The victor then tears the heart out of the loser’s chest and appears to eat it. Later, another attendee is decapitated.
While similar violence occurs in the Mortal Kombat games, the complainant apparently points out that the games are age-rated (Shaolin Monks carries an 18 certificate in the UK) and questions whether a viral distributed online can be similarly rated.
An ASA spokesman confirms that the ASA must first establish that its remit covers the Mortal Kombat viral. The authority has no jurisdiction over material which companies place on their websites – this counts as editorial. The ASA can investigate complaints about virals that are actively sent out by a company or its agencies or are placed as ads on other sites.
The Mortal Kombat viral, however, is being hosted by specialist viral sites. Often, these sites are paid by advertising agencies to carry their clients’ material. The ASA spokesman says the ASA will have to establish whether its remit covers such “seeding”.
Chris Toombes, founder of viral website TTR2, confirms that Midway paid his company to host the Mortal Kombat viral. He argues that attempts by the ASA to regulate virals may drive viral distribution underground.