Mobile Strike, which has since moved on to advertising featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a base-building MMO with PvP elements. Similar to Game of War (which has also used celebrities in marketing), the game revolves around creating your own military base in a modern setting, while also engaging with the troops and bases of opposing players. The advert in question began airing in December of 2016 and featured three plus-size models playing Mobile Strike while lounging by a pool in their swimwear.
The developers behind Mobile Strike, Machine Zone Inc., had defended their creation, claiming that the advert had aimed to create a juxtaposition between the relaxing nature of time by the pool and the action-oriented gameplay of Mobile Strike. In addition, they felt it was important to highlight the portable nature of their game, and showing players engaging with the game in a wide variety of places was central to their marketing.
Machine Zone Inc explained that their mobile app game Mobile Strike, was a modern military-themed combat game where players could battle against other players. One important feature of the game was that it could be played on mobile devices, the game was therefore portable and could be played anywhere. They believed the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool (i.e. relax and lounge) with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the ad so striking. That theme was used in other ads for the game – for example, players battling one another in cafes, restaurants and the launderette. The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in everyday, sometimes boring, spaces.Machine Zone also expressed concern that the advert had only been singled out as an offensive advert because it featured models commonly referred to as "plus-size". They felt that an advert with a more conventional image of female beauty (i.e. slim) would not have been reported.
Unfortunately for Machine Zone, the Advertising Standards Authority did not find the defense compelling, noting that the women behaved in a sexually provocative manner multiple times during the advert, and were often framed in the shots in a way to bring attention to their waist, chest, and hips. While the advert did contain elements of gameplay from the app, the ASA felt that the behavior of the models in the advert was not tied enough to the nature of the game to justify their inclusion, and upheld the complaint against the game.
The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised – a combat-themed mobile game app.Following the ruling, the ASA has banned the advert in question and warned Machine Zone Inc. to not allow Mobile Strike's marketing to contain similar elements in the future.
Update: We mistakenly called the ASA the Advertising Standards Agency and not Advertising Standards Authority in the original piece. This has been corrected. Our apologies on the mistake.