Paranormal Activity 4 in-game ad banned

An in-game ad for horror movie Paranormal Activity 4, which appeared in the Angry Birds and Draw Something game apps, has been banned for its potential to strike fear and distress in children.

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The video ad for the film included a scene of a person being dragged across a room by an invisible force and a shadowy figure appearing behind a woman.

It sparked three complaints deeming the ad “irresponsible” because it appeared in a game likely to be played by children.

Paramount Pictures UK said it instructed its media buying agency MEC Global to buy space aimed at 15- to 24-year-olds “in good faith” the content would be appropriately placed. In turn, MEC said it purchased space from a package targeting the demographic provided by sales house Odyssey Mobile.

Paramount and MEC said neither Odyssey Mobile nor the owners of the apps raised concerns with them about the ad being inappropriate for their audiences.

Zynga Inc, owner of Draw Something, says it received feedback from its gamer community the ad may have been inappropriate for younger players and discontinued the ad and alerted MEC.

Likewise, Angry Birds owner Rovio Entertainment said some of its gamers had complained to them directly via email and its online discussion forums and removed the ad.

Millennial Media, the third party ad network that served the ad, apologised to Rovio for what was a “human error” and has committed to implementing additional safeguards to ensure the incident is not repeated.

The Advertising Standards Authority accepted Paramount had instructed its agency in good faith but noted errors had clearly been made by various parties involved in placing the ad.

The watchdog concluded the ad’s placement around mobile games that might be played by both adults and children was “irresponsible” due to its distressing scenes.

The ASA has told Paramount to ensure all agencies instructed to buy ad space in the future take account of the context in which the content will appear to avoid the risk of causing undue fear or distress.

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