Sega has outraged the police and caused a storm at a London prison by using a convicted prisoner talking about violence to advertise its Virtua Cop computer game.
The radio ad, created by McCann-Erickson, broke last night (Tuesday) on London’s Kiss FM.
It features convicted prisoner Steve Hickson in what appears to be a documentary-style interview saying that he would have “no compunction” about hurting a stranger who got in his way when committing a crime.
The interviewer then says: “Are you worried about Virtua Cop’s shoot-to-kill policy?” before explaining that Virtua Cop has killed hundreds of criminals and is armed with a 45 Magnum. “Is the prisoner bothered ?” he asks. “Yes, I’m bothered,” he replies.
Sega says the ad was made with the full knowledge of Ted Butts, governor of HM Prison Latchmere, and that the company made a contribution to prison funds.
But Butts admits: “I thought that they were making a radio programme. I did not know that it was for a computer game or that it would be used for a commercial purpose.” Butts does add, however, that a contribution of 200 was made to prison funds.
Marketing Week has a copy of a consent form signed by Hickson, allowing McCann to use his voice in connection with the product.
A spokeswoman for the prison service says that the governor will now carry out a full investigation.
Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, says: “What is astonishing is not only the impression that this game gives to children, but also the complete freedom which convicted prisoners have to communicate with the media and receive some form of payment for it.The whole issue must be carefully examined by the Home Secretary.”
A Sega source comments: “It’s all bloody good publicity.”