ASA Ruling on The Health Lottery TV ad

United Kingdom

On 19 December 2018, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published their ruling in relation to a TV ad run by Health Lottery ELM Ltd t/a The Health Lottery ("Health Lottery") in September 2018. The ASA ruled in the Health Lottery's favour, finding that the ads did not breach the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising ("BCAP Code").

The ad

The ad began with a man finding a £1 coin down the back of his armchair. He then walked into a grocery shop and the voice-over stated that "you might think £1 won’t buy you much these days, a loaf of bread, a pint of milk but George knows £1 buys you a chance to play the Health Lottery”.

At the same time, the coin in the man’s hand turned into a loaf of bread and then a bottle of milk. The voice-over continued “£1 could get you this or this” while daydreaming clouds above the man’s head showed images changing from a car, to a speedboat, to a house.

The voice-over then stated that the Health Lottery was there for those who need it most.

The complainant alleged that the ad implied it was better for someone to gamble £1 in a lottery than to spend it on essential items such as food, and challenged whether the ad was socially responsible.

The Health Lottery said that when developing the concept for the ad their key aim was to show that the £1 was an unexpected lucky “windfall” found down the back of an armchair, and so was outside of budgeted expenses, such as food and clothing. The man decided to play the lottery because he felt as if he was having a lucky day.

The Health Lottery further claimed that milk and bread were included as everyday items to indicate that the cost of a Health Lottery ticket was inexpensive compared to the potential reward that players could receive.

The ASA investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Responsible advertising), 18.2.1 and 18.2.4 (Lotteries), but did not find it in breach.

The ASA's ruling

The ASA noted that the man was first shown in what appeared to be a spacious home. The £1 coin the man used to buy the lottery ticket was found down the back of the chair and therefore the discovery of the money was unexpected.

It was decided that viewers would understand that the man was not someone who did not already have basic food essentials.

The man had entered the shop with the specific intention to buy a lottery ticket with the £1 he had found, and was not making a decision as to whether to spend it on a lottery or food essentials. Instead, the inclusion of bread and milk was to show that everyday food items could be bought for the same price as a £1 lottery ticket, and that if spare money was found, it could be spent on a lottery ticket.

Therefore, the ASA considered that the ad did not suggest it was better for someone to gamble £1 in a lottery than to spend it on essential items, meaning that the ad was not irresponsible and did not breach the BCAP Code.

As there had been no breach of the BCAP Code, the ASA directed that no further action was necessary.

The full ruling can be found here.

Key takeaways

This is a useful reminder to all gambling operators that advertisements should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

Further, gambling ads must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. In particular, marketing communications must not portray participating in a lottery as indispensable or as taking priority in life.

The Health Lottery was able to demonstrate it had considered these points, by making it clear that the man in the ad was not having to make a decision as to whether to spend the money on essentials or on a lottery. Instead, this was extra money, and as such it was fine to gamble with this money.

Co-authored by Laura Bilinski.