On 3 June 2020, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published rulings on two ads by LC International Limited (“LC International”), one of which was for Ladbrokes, and the other for Coral. The Ladbrokes TV ad was not found to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (“BCAP Code”), whereas the Coral ad, which was a Tweet on its Twitter page, was held to have breached the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (“CAP Code”).
Ladbrokes TV Ad
The ad for Ladbrokes appeared on 29 February 2020, and showed various people in everyday situations but with a gambling twist. For example, the ad showed a man filling his car up at a petrol station and the voiceover stated “It’s all about getting them to line up”. At this point, the price of his petrol began to change and eventually stopped at £77.77, after which the man said “Yes”. In another scene, a woman was in a clothes shop, where she span round a circular clothing rail that contained alternating red and black clothes.
Five people complained to the ASA about the ad, as they believed that it showed people who were addicted to gambling and that gambling was taking priority in their lives.
LC International explained that the ad was intended to show humorous analogies of gambling in everyday life. They claimed that the ad did not show that gambling interrupted the characters’ everyday routine, and that none of the scenes were set in a work environment. In addition, LC International rejected the claim that the ad represented the people as addicted to gambling, in particular because the characters all showed expressions of excitement and concentration, as opposed to distance or daydreaming. Clearcast agreed and said that the ad showed people undertaking everyday tasks and being momentarily reminded of gambling.
The ASA investigated the complaint under rules 17.3.1 and 17.3.4 of the BCAP Code. These rules state that gambling must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm, and must not portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments.
Having reviewed the ad, the ASA did not agree that it presented gambling as indispensable or that it showed gambling taking priority in any aspect of the characters’ lives. The ASA considered that the characters were briefly reminded of gambling, and in each case were not so distracted that they couldn’t continue with their day.
Therefore, the ad was held not to have breached the BCAP Code.
The Coral ad was a Tweet, which appeared on Coral’s Twitter page in March 2020. The ad said “We’re as passionate about the bet as you are. So, get your stake back as a free bet if your horse fails to finish. #CoralRacing 18+, T&C’s Apply”. There was then a link to a video ad, which was captioned “Have another go” and showed a jockey about to fall off his horse. The voiceover said “Get a free bet with fail to finish” and these words were also captioned. A man watching looked disappointed, but then looked at his phone and smiled, at which point the voiceover stated “For the passion of the bet: Coral Racing”.
A complainant argued that the ad encouraged repeated gambling and claimed that the ad was irresponsible.
LC International did not agree that the ad encouraged repeated play and explained that the promotion was simply providing a form of “insurance”, which was an industry-recognised promotion. In addition, LC International made clear that players would not have to spend any additional money to qualify for the free bet and so the mechanism was not designed to cause any financial or social harm. The ad also featured the GambleAware website, stated the age restriction and included the Senet banner, which read “When the fun stops, stop”.
They acknowledged that the ASA’s Advertising Guidance on Gambling Advertising states that marketers should take care to avoid giving the impression that the decision to gamble should be taken lightly, but were of the view that the ad did not apply undue pressure to gamble.
The ASA investigated the complaint under rule 16.3.1 of the CAP Code which states that marketers should ensure their ads do not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
Although the ASA acknowledged that a ‘Fail to Finish’ offer did not oblige players to take up the offer and that no additional funds were required, the complaint was upheld. The ASA ruled that the claim “Have another go”, together with the video where the man was instantly uplifted upon finding out he had a free bet back, did give the impression that the decision to gamble had been taken lightly. The ASA also considered that some consumers might therefore take up the offer repetitively.
LC International was ordered not to show the ad again and was reminded that gambling promotions should not use tactics that are likely to encourage repetitive gambling.