Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), Eaton Gate Gaming Ltd t/a Kwiff
Where: United Kingdom
When: 17 May 2023
Law stated as at: 22 May 2023
The ASA has recently upheld a complaint against Kwiff, in relation to a display ad featured in a news article on a football club’s website about its junior membership package “Junior Blues”.
The decision is the latest in a line of recent rulings by the regulator which demonstrate its sharp focus on gambling ads which may be seen by children and young people.
The rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) require gambling advertising to comply with general responsibility provisions. Marketers are, in particular, required to take all reasonable steps to protect children and young people from being harmed or exploited by advertising that features or promotes gambling.
The CAP Code includes principle-based provisions that are giving the regulator broad scope to act where it considers that marketing communications are likely to be irresponsible because they pose a risk to under-18s.
The ASA Guidance states that marketing communications are likely to breach these rules if they:
- feature under 18s playing a significant role;
- are directed explicitly at under 18s by being placed in media for that group or any sub-age category (for example, younger children or teenagers);
- address under 18s directly through their content, or;
- otherwise encourage under 18s directly to engage in potentially harmful behaviour.
The guidance specifically states that “under 18s may encounter marketing communications directed at adults in media environments with more general audiences“.
ASA challenge and Kwiff’s response
The ASA challenged the appropriateness of Kwiff’s display ad which appeared on a news article on a football club’s website in relation to its “Junior Blues” junior membership package.
The ad had offered up to 200 cash free spins on a specific slot game, requiring a £20 wager on slots for five consecutive days. The ad had also included qualifying text stating that it was for “18+ new customers only” and had specific terms and conditions.
In its response to the ASA’s complaint, Kwiff stated that:
- its ad was not publicly available,
- it was a dynamic ad given that the content of its location changed based on the viewer’s online behaviour, the data obtained by the technology used and the advertiser,
- it used behavioural targeting to reach specific profiles, excluding individuals under the age of 18,
- the website where the ad appeared was not specifically directed at children and the news section, where the ad was seen, was not directed at children,
- the ad itself did not appeal to children in its content and design,
- the statement “Do not worry if you’re 18 or over, as we also have adult membership packages available” could not be used to indicate that the article was aimed primarily at younger readers and membership payments required a debit or credit card, and
- even with the best technology, there was a small chance that ads could be seen by minors (though Kwiff noted from their tracking data, 33 individuals had interacted with the ad and all passed age-verification).
The ASA upheld its complaint and assessed that Kwiff’s ad breached the rules on gambling advertising by targeting a young audience.
The ASA acknowledged that Kwiff had used sophisticated targeting tools and the lengths to which they had taken to apply those tools. However, it stated that its consideration was around the targeting of age-restricted ads and as such, it assessed whether the media alongside which the ad was served was appropriate together with the content in which it appeared.
The ad appeared on a news article titled “Join the Junior Blues” on the football club’s website, which outlined membership packages for children aged under 18. The article’s content, taken together with the presence of a cartoon version of the club’s mascot, indicated that it was aimed at young people.
While there were references to adult membership packages, the distinction the article made between those over 18 and the content primarily directed at under-18 readers suggested that it was targeting young audience.
Why this matters:
This latest ASA ruling is a further example of the regulator’s sharp focus on gambling advertising to under 18s.
Despite the unfortunate nature of the placement of the ad and the ASA acknowledging Kwiff’s attempts to implement safety measures and safeguards, the regulator remained sceptical. It felt that ultimately, whether intentional or not, Kwiff’s ad appeared alongside content explicitly targeted at minors.
The ruling serves as a reminder that operators must remain diligent in preventing underage individuals from accessing or interacting with gambling content. Necessary safeguarding steps must be considered by companies to ensure that any age-restricted ads do not appear on websites that are accessible to under 18s. This may include close monitoring of campaigns (and the content alongside which they appear) to avoid potential violations.
The ruling also reminds businesses that the ASA is a proactive regulator. In this case, the complaint was raised by the ASA rather than a member of the public, organisation or competitor.