U.K. Watchdog Dismisses Complaint Over Universal's 'The Purge' Ad

The Purge Ethan Hawke Lena Headey Flashlights - H 2013
Universal Pictures

The Purge Ethan Hawke Lena Headey Flashlights - H 2013

The local authority says the scary spot from the studio's international releasing division did not cause offense or break rules of responsible advertising.

LONDON – A complaint about an advertising campaign for horror film The Purge made against Universal Pictures International U.K. and Ireland, the studio's overseas releasing arm, has not been upheld.

The complaint centered around an in-game ad for James DeMonaco's violent, satirical film, starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, which appeared in the game app Real Football 2013.

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The ad included various scenes of violence and at one point a group of people carrying weapons approached a house, and a man's voice said, "anybody tries to come in, you blast them." Towards the end of the ad, the man told a woman "everything is gonna be okay." She replied tearfully, "nothing is going to be okay."

The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it appeared on an app that might be played by children.

Universal Pictures International acknowledged to the ad industry watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, that the ad contained some moderate violence and alarm, but said they had taken reasonable measures to ensure that it would be targeted to an audience aged 15 and over, who would not find the content unduly shocking or distressing.

The studio distributor also noted the ad had been cleared for TV broadcast with a post-9pm restriction.

Based on both that and the movie's 15 certificate, they had assigned the ad a 15+ designation and had asked the media agency to target online audiences of 15-24-year-olds.

The complainant's seven-year-old son had seen the ad at around 9pm whilst playing the game Real Football 2013.

Universal also noted that it did not believe that the soccer game was aimed primarily at, or indeed would appeal to, children, because alongside controlling players on the football field, gameplay involved strategic activities such as signing stadium sponsors, hiring doctors and investing in auxiliary facilities.

Also in the studio's favor was the fact that Gameloft, the owners of the game, said over 82 percent of the game's players were aged 18 and over and they had received no complaints themselves.

The ASA noted the concerns but said the ad did not fall foul of its rules on responsible advertising, or its guidelines on harm and offense.

The movie took more than $5.3 million at the U.K. box office and north of $60 million in the U.S.