Mortal Kombat ad 'irresponsible'

Midway Games is hitting the headlines with a familiar story after an ad for comeback games title Mortal Kombat was deemed “irresponsible” by the UK’s advertising watchdog.

Designed as an internet only ad, the offending video featured a boardroom sales dispute that is settled when two workers agree to fight each other with their fists.

Fists soon turn into office objects, leading to one man being pummeled with a glass vase, before his attacker is stabbed with a pencil, while another is decapitated by a hat belonging to the sales troubleshooter.

The victor of the sales spat celebrates by prying out his opponent’s heart with that trusty pencil, as his blooded body lies on the boardroom table moments before the tagline, ‘cut meetings short’ appears.

The advert for Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, developed by Maverick Media, received one complaint, from a journalist in Middlesex.

The Advertising Standards Authority said while both websites said they had no visitor complaints, they both acknowledged targeting adult or industry audiences, instead of general consumers.

One of the ad carriers,, said their website was designed to help businesses track and measure the success of viral marketing campaigns, rather than offer analysis of content.

The second portal,, says it targets men aged 18 to 40 and even then, the clip is dubbed a ‘SNSFW’ – ‘Slightly Not Safe For Work.’

In addition, the site, which is still hosting a clip of the offending ad, displays a warning that “some of the content published [is] not recommended to be viewed by anyone under 18.”

Reflecting on the testimonials from both parties, ASA said the ad breached five separate sections of guidelines.

In particular, although Maverick Media apologised for any offence the ad may have caused, the Authority ruled the clip was unsuitable for children, as the initial complainant alleged.

Moreover, the watchdog said it also breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Principles), 5.1 (Decency), 9.1 (Fear and Distress), 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour).

“The ASA considered that, although the ad was intended to be humourous, because it both condoned and glorified violence and contained some scenes which could be emulated, it was irresponsible,” the regulator said in a statement.

“We considered that the ad was likely to cause fear or distress and serious or widespread offence and that Midway Games had used shocking images to attract attention to their product.”

Evidently, viral marketing campaigns are not in favour at the ASA, though the content of the clip is sure to generate the publicity Midway and its supporters are gunning for.

The decision is not the first time Mortal Kombat or its developer have been pulled up over advertising, following its promotional offering in 2003 to hype the flagship title via billboards and posters.

Similar to its verdict today, the watchdog then branded the promo offensive, distressing to children and irresponsible.

The ASA has now told Midway not to repeat the approach and advised them to consult CAP Copy Advice before producing any future adverts.


22nd December 2005

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