Viral marketers to flout ASA rules by moving sites abroad

The UK’s thriving online viral marketing industry is under threat of being driven abroad after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) slammed a viral video for Midway Games’ Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks for being overly violent.

Industry insiders claim attempts by the ASA to rein in viral marketing will have the reverse effect. One insider says: “If the ASA tries to control online virals, then we will just move our sites abroad.”

The Mortal Kombat live-action video viral, created and distributed for the games company by Maverick Media, features a business meeting that descends into violence (MW October 6, 2005).

The ASA ruled that the ad glorified violence and had scenes that might be copied and so was irresponsible. Midway was told to consult the ASA’s copy advice team before producing future ads.

Most online virals are outside the ASA’s remit, because they are carried on company websites and are considered “editorial” or because they are distributed by consumers themselves on a peer-to-peer basis. However, if a company or its agents sends out a viral as an e-mail, or if it pays for it to appear on a website then the ASA has jurisdiction.

The ASA’s Committee on Advertising Practice is drafting a new set of rules. It may extend its remit to cover material hosted on companies’ websites that is obviously advertising.

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