Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (GTA:SA) boasts an impressive, stand-out advertising campaign, but for some people the in-game footage in the two advertisements, largely set to music, were too violent. After drowning in the flood of 8 complaints,the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that they could only be shown after the watershed (9pm GMT to our non-UK readers).
"We could understand the parents' concerns that it was inappropriate for young children to see this level of violence in advertising for a product which was only available to adults," said a spokesman for the ASA. One of the complaints referred to the adverts' showing during an ad break at 6.30pm on Channel 4 on Sunday afternoon. For the most part the GTA: SA adverts have run at late night with the channel's weekend comedy output. For the ASA though, the "threatening atmosphere" was enough to restrict, but not totally ban, the campaign. Doubtless The Daily Mail will see the ruling as a victory for morality like it always does.
It is however, unrealistic to suggest that the children supposedly protected by this formal restriction to post-9pm broadcasting, had not already heard of the game in schoolyards (and even primary school playgrounds) throughout the country. Although Rockstar is on record as saying its policy was not to advertise a product around programmes where less than half the audience was below the age required to buy it, this is the creator of Manhunt talking. While some people will pick up the telephone to complain to the ASA, many more parents will ignore the big 18 certificate on the box and buy the game for their kids, as they did with Vice City and Grand Theft Auto III.
If Rockstar can get more mileage and sales out of this incident three months ahead of the PC version's release, they've hardly been hurt considering the game's easily passed six-figure sales already,and should easily get into the millions with the PC and eventual Xbox releases.
Meanwhile LucasArts haven't bothered with a softly softly family marketing approach- its ad campaign for Mercenaries simply encourages you to "Blow stuff up" and "Blow More Stuff Up". Clearly it's targeting all the male, non-Star Wars loving, Yorkie-eating destruction junkies with a console then, and is happy to stay on late at night.