The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has banned Microsoft’s TV advert for the XBox 360 featuring stunt street drivers and Parkour traceurs and traceuses. After a single complaint the ASA examined the ad and decided that limiting screening to after 9 pm was not sufficient. In the interests of road safety the advertisement was not to be broadcast again in the UK. The ad was released in Europe on September 27, 2006, in 60 and 30 second versions.
The TV ad, accompanied by Spanish guitar music, begins with three ‘robbers’ wearing ski masks running away from ‘cops’, holding what appears to be a bag of stolen goods. They try to evade the cops by scaling the rooftops of buildings, taking desperate, gravity-defying leaps from buildings to window ledges and into a waiting getaway car. Text at the bottom of the screen states “Dramatisation. Professional stunt. Do not attempt”. A police helicopter flies over the top as a car chase ensues, weaving in and out of busy city streets, ending with the getaway car rolling. Text at the bottom of the screen states “Professional drivers. Closed course”. Eventually it’s all over as the cops ‘win’ and close in on the ‘robbers’. But there’s a twist to the story as the chase is revealed to be just a mischievous game of ‘cops and robbers’ amongst friends. They swap balaclavas and police badges, immediately starting the countdown to begin another game. The super: “Jump in. Xbox 360″. Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube
ASA considered this a advert after one viewer complained that the ad glamorised “street racing” and might encourage viewers, young men in particular, to drive dangerously.
McCann Erickson replied on behalf of Microsoft (Xbox), and said throughout the process of developing the ad they had been keen to avoid any possible misconception that Xbox was encouraging dangerous driving. They said they had worked closely with the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), both before shooting and in the editing phase, to produce an ad they believed was acceptable to air and that was also in line with their own corporate social responsibility guidelines. They said the scenario was an analogy for computer gaming; one of friends getting together and having fun, and had nothing to do with driving. They acknowledged that the ad had an adult context and were therefore happy with the post-9 pm timing restriction applied by the BACC. They said they had deliberately placed prominent on-screen text in the ad to explain that all stunts were performed in controlled environments by professionals and that viewers should not attempt the stunts themselves. They pointed out that at no time in the ad were any cars shown to be exceeding the speed limit for public roads. Xbox said they were committed to responsible console gaming and would therefore not intentionally show irresponsible behaviour in an ad.
The BACC (responsible for clearing advertising before broadcast) said they gave the ad very careful consideration and applied a post-9 pm timing restriction to keep it away from more impressionable younger viewers. They said the text had explained that the action was a stunt set up for the purposes of the ad and not an attempt to imitate reality. They pointed out that there was a warning that the action should not be copied, which, they believed, made clear that the ad did not condone what was shown on screen. The BACC said there was no suggestion that the action shown was illegal in any way. They believed it was clear to viewers that this was a well-planned stunt carried out in safe circumstances.
The ASA noted the on-screen text stated the events in the ad were staged and performed by professional drivers in a controlled environment and warned viewers not to attempt to copy the actions shown. However, ASA considered that the text reinforced the sense that the events in the ad were real, rather than fantasy, and were therefore capable of being copied. ASA board were members concerned that the ad gave the impression that reckless street car racing was exciting and fun, and considered that was compounded by the congratulations offered to the driver at the end of the “race” by the other young men involved. ASA concluded that because the ad glamorised street car racing and could be seen to condone dangerous driving, it must not be broadcast again.
Cops And Robbers was developed at McCann Erickson, San Francisco, by executive producer Matthew Winks, executive creative directors Rob Bagot and John McNeil, creative directors Scott Duchon and Geoff Edwards, copywriter Rick Herrera and art director Ben Wolan.
Filmed on location in Bucharest, the ad was directed by Australian Garth Davis via Anonymous Content, with executive producer Andy Traines, head of production SueEllen Claire, line producer Karen Sproul and director of photography Greig Fraser.
Editing was done at Rock Paper Scissors by Angus Wall, with executive producers Dave Sellars and Linda Carlson, producers Dan Brimer and Carol Lynn Weaver, assistant editors Charlie Lee and Benjamin Foushee.
Visual Effects were done at A52 by executive producer Mark Tobin, lead Inferno artist Patrick Murphy, producer Mark Kurtz, and Inferno Artists Justin Blaustein and Carlos Morales. Colorist was Stefan Sonnenfeld with telecine company Company 3.
Music was composed by Nate Morgan with Elias Arts, with creative director David Gold and executive producer Ann Haugen. Sound was designed and mixed at Eleven Sound by Jeff Payne with executive producer DJ Fox-Engstrom.
One ‘robber’ is played by French stuntman, martial artist & movie star Cyrille Rafaelli, who starred in 2004 Parkour movie Banlieue 13. Cyrille carries out the daring roof-top stunt as the ‘robbers’ attempt to get away from the ‘cops’. The other ‘robber’, Ilya, a rising star in Cyrille’s famous Parkour troop does the window ledge stunt.
“We wanted to show how Xbox 360 lets you play in unexpected, new ways and remind us of how we feel when we’re really having fun with our friends,” said Richard Teversham, EMEA Director of Marketing and Platform at XBox. “This campaign really brings out the sociability of Xbox 360 and taps into the playfulness that we all have in us. With Xbox 360 you get all the exhilaration and emotion that a simple game of Cops and Robbers inspires – but now that fun’s evolved into high definition, next generation fun backed up with a fantastic array of more than 160 games to play by the end of the year”