Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power (Paddy Power)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 15 June 2022
Law stated as at: 18 June 2022
In line with the ASA’s recent advertising campaign in which it highlighted its work in focus areas including gambling to ensure that related advertising is “legal, decent, honest and truthful”, the regulator doubled down with their assessments on three separate rulings for various ads from Paddy Power.
1) The first assessed whether a television ad and a video-on-demand ad for Paddy Power, which showed a young man using his phone to gamble on Paddy Power’s “Wonder Wheel” game and appearing intently focused on the game and less so on the environment around him, were:
a) portraying gambling as taking priority in life; and
b) encouraging socially irresponsible behaviour by carrying the claim “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games”.
The ASA found these ads to be in breach of the code. It considered that the ad largely had the effect of portraying gambling as taking priority in life over family. It also considered that the claim gave the impression that the decision to gamble, even in the face of repeated losses, should be taken lightly and was therefore likely to encourage repetitive or frequent participation in gambling.
2) The second ruling addressed a radio ad featuring a conversation between a father and his prospective son-in-law. In the ad, the father-in-law states, “Tell me, Cheltenham’s this week, do you ride?” to which the son-in-law replied, “Er, only with your daughter, sir.” This exchange was followed by the sound of a glass smashing, and a voice-over then said, “Blown your big chance?”
The complainant found the ad degrading to women and challenged whether it was offensive and harmful. The ASA did not find the ad to be in breach of the code. It appreciated the anxiety that naturally comes with meeting a partner’s family. Although it considered that some listeners may have found the reference distasteful, the innuendo was relatively mild and, therefore, would be unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
3) The final ruling related to a radio ad that centred around the rivalry between British and Irish trainers and their supporters at the Cheltenham festival. It was challenged on whether the statement “biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s” was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. One complainant believed this to be a reference to IRA attacks, while another believed this, alongside the statement, “put the Irish trainers back in their little green horse boxes” were derogatory references to Irish emigration.
Though the ASA acknowledged that immigration could be a “sensitive and controversial topic” and that some listeners might find it distasteful to base humour on immigration or make light of Irish emigration in the 1980s, the ASA considered that the ad was “not making negative or disparaging comments about immigration, emigration or the Irish“. It also noted there were no direct references to the IRA in the ad. The ASA therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Why this matters:
The ASA continue to focus heavily on gambling and betting ads. As a result, advertisers in this space should ensure they appreciate the sensitive nature the topic in alignment with the ASA’s guidance and are mindful of how their ads could be interpreted by the audience. The Committee of Advertising Practice continue to remind advertisers of their duty to ensure ads do not trivialise gambling or give the impression that the decision to gamble should be taken lightly.
Additionally, while the use of humour can help increase engagement on advertisements, advertisers (regardless of the product or service they are advertising) should ensure that this does not encourage harmful or discriminatory behaviour or treatment, or risk causing offence, particularly on the grounds of age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex or sexual orientation.