Three screenshots from the mind-numbing OneSoft Studio game pulled up for its racy ads by the ASA

Scrabble Go Had Ads Condoning "Sexual Assault", Rules ASA

July 6, 2022

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that mobile ads created by the developer OneSoft Studio "condoned sexual assault" and "encouraged sexual violence". These ads were shown during games of Scrabble Go Classic, which has an ESRB rating of Everyone, meaning children potentially viewed the ads.

Why has the ASA condemned OneSoft Studio's mobile ads?

In April this year, the ASA upheld complaints against ads for the "puzzle game" Brain Story: Tricky Puzzle, which were potentially shown to kids in games like Alice's Resort: Word Game. Unfortunately, it looks like the ASA's work is never done, as two new complaints have been lodged against ads for the OneSoft Studio games Naughty Puzzle: Tricky Test and Naughty Quiz: Brain Out Puzzle (as you can see, creativity appears to be at an all-time low in mobile gaming).

 

Some stills from the offending Naughty Puzzle ad, which depicts a woman stuck in a fence and which was accused by the ASA of condoning "sexual assault"
The Naughty Puzzle: Tricky Test ad condemned by the ASA is not exactly subtle. Stills courtesy of this YouTube video because it's pretty hard to find this ad otherwise.

The still above isn't quite representative of the one for which the ASA upheld complaints, because the newer version contains a black rectangle obscuring the woman's breasts and upper thighs. Either way, though, the ad depicts a woman stuck in a fence and being watched by a man. The woman is struggling to get free from the fence, and the man is presented with the option to "help" or "slap". I'm sure you know what happens if you choose "slap". Later, a rather baffling choice between "jutsu" and "undress" is presented to the player, and again, it's pretty obvious what consequence the choice will have (except for "jutsu"). The ad was shown for two games, Naughty Puzzle: Tricky Test and Naughty Quiz: Brain Out Puzzle, which rather goes to show how creatively bankrupt OneSoft Studio apparently is.

How did these ads find their way into Scrabble Go Classic?

Two complainants raised understandable complaints regarding the ad, which they said "trivialized and condoned" sexual assault, as well as objectifying and demeaning women. The ads were also seen in the game Scrabble Go Classic, which has an Everyone ESRB rating, meaning people of all ages can play it. Scopely, the developer of that Scrabble game, said it blocked the ads on April 7th, and ad network Mintegral said it also blocked them after its automated system failed to flag the problem up. However, after this happened, OneSoft re-uploaded the ads, which were approved because the Scrabble algorithm had "erroneously taken the ads' past approval to reflect a low risk of violation". 

 
 
A banner ad showing Scrabble Go Classic
The offending mobile ads appeared in Scrabble Go Classic, a game that people of all ages can play.

Suffice it to say the ASA upheld the complainants' complaints. The Authority says it was concerned by OneSoft's "lack of response and apparent disregard for the (CAP) Code" after it attempted to contact the studio. It found that the ads led viewers to consider the woman stuck in the fence as "a sexual object to be manipulated" without consent and that they contained "a gender stereotype likely to cause harm". Specifically, these are the elements of the Code that the ASA found the ads were breaking.

  • CAP 1.3: Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
  • CAP 4.1: Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
  • CAP 4.4: Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.
  • CAP 4.9: Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

Naturally, this is far from the first time a company has fallen foul of the ASA. The Authority has, in the past, upheld claims against companies like Homescapes and Gardenscapes developer Playrix over misleading advertising, and has also targeted games like Mobile Strike for featuring sexually suggestive depictions of women in advertising. The message is pretty clear: don't include demeaning gender stereotypes in your advertising if you're a mobile developer, and don't incite sexual violence, either. Here's hoping that OneSoft gets the message.