Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 11:49 GMT
Body blow for PlayStation fight ad
PlayStation: Watchdog says campaigns were offensive
Computer games giant Sony has been reprimanded for a promotional mailshot advising the recipient to seek urgent medical treatment.
The letter promoting PlayStation accessories resembled a medical test report and caused a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.
The mailings were sent in a brown manila envelope marked: "Private and Confidential".
Inside a mock medical card bearing the name of the recipient described a "potentially serious" condition.
There were also four mock X-ray photos on the letter, one of which depicted a human skull.
The letter contained advice to have "immediate treatment" and was supposedly signed by a doctor.
The card also stated: "This is not a piece of genuine medical communication". However, the disclaimer was on the back of the card.
A number of the complaints came from people who had recently attended hospitals for tests, leading to a Sony apology last year.
But the ASA said the mailing was likely to offend, particularly those awaiting the results of medical tests.
The watchdog added that Sony's advice team had advised against marking the envelopes, "test results".
A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment UK defended the firm's record in more than 30 advertising campaigns a year.
But a spokesman admitted: "With the benefit of hindsight perhaps the explanation could have been made clearer.
"It was intended as a humorous campaign and PlayStation is an edgy brand but our campaigns are not designed to drive complaints.
"Sony is a major company and a responsible company," he added.
Meanwhile, the company's efforts to promote a violent fighting game have also been criticised by the ASA.
A poster for the Tekken 3 game that carried the slogan, "the mother of all fighting games" attracted 10 complaints.
The advert showed a shrouded and dismembered body on a mortuary slab with feet protruding from opposite ends of the sheet.
The complainants said the poster was distasteful and indecent because of the real and violent nature of the images.
Sony claimed it was surreal in a manner reminiscent of a cartoon, but the ASA considered that it looked "realistic and macabre".
The authority will now vet all PlayStation poster campaigns for the next two years.