ESA calls firm's survey release 'unprofessional'

WASHINGTON: The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which represents video and computer game makers, reached out to the gaming and technology community in an effort to combat a study Hill & Knowlton released on December 5.

WASHINGTON: The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which represents video and computer game makers, reached out to the gaming and technology community in an effort to combat a study Hill & Knowlton released on December 5.

H&K created the survey while pitching for ESA business, which ultimately went to Powell Tate in late October. ESA called H&K "unprofessional and unethical" for publicly releasing the research.

Dan Hewitt, ESA director of media relations, issued a response stating the study, which, among other things, found that 60% of US consumers think the government should regulate sales of video games with violent or "mature" content, was conducted to compliment materials submitted to win ESA's account, and as such the study results are skewed. Numerous gaming Web sites and blogs picked up the statement.

"Hill & Knowlton's decision to release these findings was both unprofessional and unethical and its timing is questionable," Hewitt said. "In addition, the release of only part of the findings paints an inaccurate picture of the entertainment software industry."

At issue is whether research done in the course of RFPs tends to unfairly highlight negative aspects of a potential client or its industry in hopes of underscoring the need for PR or public affairs services.

But Joe Paluska, head of H&K's worldwide and technology practice, countered that the agency planned to perform the survey before the RFP and that the data was objective.

"All surveys are intended to inform, provide insights, and stir debate," Paluska wrote in an e-mail. "Ours is no different. We paid for the survey and own the data. We had always planned to conduct and publish a gaming survey in the fourth quarter and those plans were accelerated when the ESA invited us to meet with them earlier this year."

Regarding the account, Hewitt told PRWeek that Powell Tate's work will include public and new media outreach conveying that the average video game player is actually older than the stereotypical adolescent.

Legislation on both the state and federal level currently under consideration or appeal would regulate the sale of violent or sexually explicit games to minors.

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