Sony Considering Legal Action Over Change4Life Ad

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Sony is considering legal action against the U.K. government’s Change4Life campaign over the unauthorized use of a PlayStation controller in the controversial “Risk an early death” ad.

A print ad featuring a bored-looking youngster staring blankly ahead while holding a game controller, while above him a headline blared, “Risk an early death, just do nothing,” was recently released as part of the U.K. government’s effort to promote a more active lifestyle among children. Naturally, the implication that being a gamer could kill you prematurely led to an eruption of anger among gamers, publishers and industry trade groups, resulting in angry blogging and even a formal complaint that was lodged with the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority.

The net result of that outrage was little more than spitting into the storm, but it appears that bigger guns are now coming to bear in the form of the Sony Legal Department. The advertising agency that created the ad didn’t contact Sony before using a distinctly PlayStation-like controller – distinct enough that Sony is now considering “legal action,” according to MCV.

This isn’t the first time Change4Life has come under fire for its negative stereotyping of gamers: In January a television ad featuring Claymation figures made similar implications about the connection between gaming and early death, although the uproar in response was somewhat less enthusiastic.

If there’s truth to the old saw about any publicity being good publicity, then Change4Life should be thrilled with the way this ad is working out. On the other hand, being sued by an aggrieved Sony, no matter how flimsy the rationale, probably isn’t going to make anyone’s day. We’ve contacted Sony and The Gate, the agency behind the ad, for comment, and will update accordingly.

UPDATE: In response to our inquiry, Sony issued a statement describing the negative portrayal of gamers as “a serious issue for the video games industry and one that needs to be dealt with by the industry as a whole,” but declined to comment on the possibility of further action.

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