01 August 1998

A STORM BROKE over Sony Computer Entertainment following a controversial consumer mailing for its Playstation games system. Mailed in an envelope marked private and confidential and headed ‘Test Results’, the contents included a ‘medical card’, purportedly signed by a doctor, which read: ‘I am writing as a matter of urgency with your scan results - they reveal early stages of a progressive condition for which I am prescribing immediate treatment’. Other pseudo-medical phraseology abounded, the letter being accompanied by a mock X-ray and - almost as an afterthought - a pricelist for Playstation accessories. The campaign [which even at concept stage would have struck a first-day work experience trainee as high-risk crassness] inevitably landed on the doormats of some consumers awaiting results of genuine medical tests, including one cancer patient expecting the results of a recent scan. The Advertising Standards Authority said it had instigated a formal investigation after receiving twenty telephone complaints. Sony apologised ‘unreservedly’ and said it had withdrawn the mailing immediately: ‘It was an awful mistake’, admitted the company.