Who: Casumo Services Ltd (Casumo) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 9 October 2019
Law stated as at: 14 October 2019
A complainant challenged whether an ad was responsibly targeted when it appeared as in a Google sponsored search result when an individual searched “how to unsubscribe from all gambling“. The ad for Casumo, a gambling app, was headed “Welcome Bonus to New Players Casumo 100% and 20 Free Spins” and stated “Create an Account & Play now!“.
Casumo stated that it targeted search terms such as “gambling” and had a list of excluded terms and combinations. However, the combination of search terms used by the complainant had not be anticipated in its excluded list.
Casumo argued that “unsubscribe” was associated with being removed from a mailing list, no longer receiving post or emails, cancelling a subscription or opting out of marketing, rather than self-exclusion from gambling; there were many terms that could be used for a similar purpose. Casumo had taken steps to review its search terms and excluded list on receiving the complaint and worked with its compliance team and a responsible gambling strategist to ensure that it was appropriately targeting its ads. Casumo argued that the ad was not irresponsibly targeted given its view of the term “unsubscribe“.
The ASA acknowledged the steps Casumo had taken. Nevertheless, on the basis that there was a strong possibility that vulnerable consumers seeking to avoid seeing gambling products may be served a gambling ad when searching “how to unsubscribe from all gambling“, the ASA held that the ad had not been responsibly targeted.
The ASA understood that consumers seeking to exclude themselves from gambling products have an array of tools to do this and considered that consumers seeking to unsubscribe from gambling are likely to be seeking information about other tools. In addition, the ASA flagged that the CAP Code requires marketing communications for gambling to have particular regard to the need to protect vulnerable persons.
Why this matters:
For gambling operators, the ruling should act as a prompt to ensure that the term “unsubscribe” and any other similar terms and combinations in respect of gambling should be on its exclusion list for targeted advertising.
For other advertisers, the ruling is an important reminder of how search and excluded terms and combinations must be carefully used when targeted advertising. In particular, advertisers need to be particularly cautious when a regulated product is being promoted (for example, alcohol) and when the targeted audience may be vulnerable (for example, children).