ASA rules that 888poker gambling ads not directed at under-18s or of particular appeal to children

United Kingdom

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled in favour of gambling operator 888 UK Ltd, in respect of two complaints made against videos advertising 888poker on the profile of social media star Callum Airey.

The two complainants, who believed Airey had a large following with young people, challenged whether the adverts – seen on a popular video-sharing platform - were directed at under-18s and had particular appeal to children, in breach of the CAP Code. The ASA found that neither advert did, and did not uphold the complaints.

This ruling demonstrates the importance for those advertising age-restricted products and services (such as gambling), to show that they have robust audience data to hand that they can use to illustrate the likely audience of their content, and that it is not likely to be viewed by those under age.

The adverts

The first video began with Airey describing 888’s Jackpot poker game and how it can be accessed via the 888poker app, depicting it as “a game of speed, fun and suspense” and that players “could win really big”. The remainder of the video showed Airey driving several social media personalities in a taxi.

The second video began with Airey promoting the 888poker app. In the video he stated “Shout out to 888poker for coming through clutch and sponsoring today’s poker video. I wanted to do a poker video for absolutely ages and now they have an amazing, an awesome, mobile app. You can actually go ahead and play with your friends. Not only that but you can play across multiple tables as well. And not only that but you can actually chuck stuff at your mates across the table” and “If you guys are interested in the app then go ahead and check it out, there will be a link down below to the 888poker app. Please download it, enjoy it, have fun and yes enjoy the video guys.” The video then showed Airey and his friends playing poker while dressed up in costumes.

Both 888 and Airey confirmed to the ASA that 888 had paid Airey to run both adverts on his profile and that 888 had editorial control over the content regarding the 888poker app.

Were the adverts directed at under-18s?

The ASA investigated whether or not the adverts were directed at those aged below 18 years of age, and therefore in breach of rule 16.1 and 16.3.13 of the CAP Code.

The ASA require that age-restricted ads (such as for gambling) must not be placed where children or young people are likely to make up more than 25% of the audience, and expect marketers to be able to demonstrate this.

888 claimed that at least 75% of Airey’s followers were over 18. Airey supported this by providing additional evidence, which included screenshots from the analytics page of the video-sharing platform. These showed that 7.5% of the audience of the first video had been under 18, that 6% of the audience of the second video had been under 18, and that 8.6% of his overall audience on the platform were under 18. Airey also provided Instagram analytics showing that he had a following of 16.2% for males under 18 and 20.8% for females under 18.

The ASA were satisfied with the evidence provided, and the fact that the 25% threshold had not been breached. Consequently, they found that neither ad was in breach of rules 16.1 or 16.3.13 of the CAP Code. 

Were the adverts of particular appeal to children?

The ASA also investigated whether or not the ads were in breach of rules 16.1 and 16.3.12 of the CAP Code on the basis of being of particular appeal to children.

In their response, 888 explained that they believed that adequate steps had been taken to ensure the ads did not appeal to children. As such a large majority of his viewership were above 18 years old, Airey argued that this proved necessary steps had been taken to ensure the content resonated with an older audience.

The ASA considered the enthusiastic and stylised manner of the first video but concluded that there was no imagery or wording that was obviously linked to youth culture. They found that, while the video was humorous in tone, the concept of pretending to be a taxi driver for other social media personalities would not have particular appeal to children or young people.

In relation to the second video, the ASA considered that the ability to throw objects across the virtual table at other players had the potential to appeal to younger people, however, in the absence of any other imagery or wording linked to youth culture, and the fact the reference was brief, the ASA decided the overall presentation did not appeal to children or young people more than it would adults. The image of Airey and his friends dressed in costumes whilst playing poker was also considered. While one of the participants did dress as a Ken doll (from Barbie and Ken) the humour was based on an adult male dressing up as a classic toy and this was not found to appeal to younger people or children. The other costumes were not linked to children or young people.

The ASA consequently found that neither advert was in breach of rules 16.1 or 16.3.12.

The full ASA ruling can be found here.

Co-authored by Hamish Temporal