Who: tombola (International) plc (Tombola), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and ITV Broadcasting Ltd (ITV)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 6 February 2019
Law stated as at: 5 March 2019
The ASA has ruled that gambling ads displayed in the “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” app breached the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) on the basis that Tombola did not use sufficient measures to minimise the likelihood individuals under the age of 18 being exposed to the ad, meaning that the ads were inappropriately targeted.
The ads in the app included content such as “Play our slot games“, “begambleaware.org Terms apply. 18+” and “tombola arcade proudly sponsors I’m A Celebrity“.
Tombola responded that the age profile of the programme’s viewers showed that 91% of the viewers were aged 18 or over. Tombola also argued that it crafted the language in the ads so that the message was delivered in an adult tone with no particular appeal to under-18s.
ITV replied that the purpose of the app was to allow a range of adults to engage with the TV show by, for example, voting on camp evictions. As no programme of the show broadcast in 2017 or 2018 had any particular appeal to under-18s, the app itself was unlikely to have such appeal.
The ASA nonetheless considered that the I’m A Celebrity app was still likely to be used by some under-18s. The ASA also pointed out that the ads in the app were shown to all viewers and there were no mechanisms in the app to allow age-targeted ads. Accordingly, Tombola should have taken reasonable steps to minimise the likelihood of such individuals from viewing the ads by, for example, ensuring the ads were specifically targeted to users above the age of 18.
Why this matters:
This ruling is interesting for a number of reasons. First, this complaint was proactively raised by the ASA (rather than by a complainant) and confirms the regulator’s commitment to tackling issues around gambling ads.
Secondly, the ruling shows that it is not sufficient to demonstrate that a medium has no particular appeal to under-18s to justify gambling ads in that space. If the medium is likely to be used by under-18s, regardless of whether they are specifically targeted, the ASA requires to take reasonable steps to restrict exposure with respect to gambling ads.
Therefore, advertisers looking to place gambling ads in any medium where under-18s could be present should consider whether the medium in question has appropriate targeting mechanisms. In light of this ruling, publishers or sellers of ad space may also be minded to include targeting mechanisms in their apps.