The ASA is currently investigating four complaints in respect of what was probably the first gambling ad to appear on TV after the Gambling Act radically liberalised the regime. Famous football personalities were featured in a laddish setting. Harmless surely? Ask Ray Coyle!
Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: Ladbrokes and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: November 2007
The Gambling Act 2005, which came into force in Great Britain in September of this year, repealed and replaced an array of existing legislation in respect of gambling. One of the effects of this has been that the ban on advertising gambling services has been lifted. However, this has by no means ushered in a free-for-all for gambling advertising. The ASA has issued comprehensive guidelines for both broadcast (link to http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/codes/radio_code/Gambling.htm) and non-broadcast media (link to http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/codes/cap_code/ShowCode.htm?clause_id=2187).
Ladbrokes were the first to take advantage of this new freedom and have screened a television advertisement which showed several former football stars arguing in a café over who will win the football premier league. One of the former footballers, Ian Wright, is encouraged to "put his money where his mouth is" by placing a bet on the outcome. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the fact that this is the first advert to be judged against the new rules, the ASA received four complaints in respect of the advert. A spokesman for the ASA has said that the "complainants were upset and concerned about the use of male bravado and peer pressure in advertising Ladbrokes".
The ASA is currently considering the complaints and a decision is expected shortly.
Why this matters:
There are, potentially, five different ASA rules on gambling advertising with which Ladbrokes risks coming into conflict:
- Adverts must not be likely to be of particular appeal to young people. The ASA will need to decide whether the use of football celebrities has a particular appeal to young people.
- Adverts must not exploit the aspirations of young people. As professional footballers are clearly inspirational figures for many young people, the ASA will need to decide whether using them in a gambling advert "exploits" that status.
- Adverts must not suggest that gambling is a way to gain recognition or admiration. There may be an issue over whether "putting your money where your mouth is" has been portrayed as a way of gaining recognition or admiration.
- Adverts must not suggest peer pressure to gamble. This is probably the most likely ground if the complaints are upheld as there does seem to be at least a suggestion of peer pressure in the advert.
- Adverts must not portray gambling in a context of toughness. It is not just the use of professional footballers that presents a risk here but also the overall tone of the advert, described by the ASA as "male bravado".
Because the Ladbrokes advert does not appear to blatantly breach the code, the decision of the ASA will set the tone for how stringent they are going to be on interpretation and enforcement of the new rules. Ladbrokes are confident in their own position and have said publicly that they will "vigorously defend" their case. Again, this will increase the importance of the ASA decision as their response to Ladbrokes advert will make very interesting reading for designers of future marketing campaigns.