Who: Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and Camelot Lotteries Limited (the “National Lottery”)
When: 29 November 2018
Law stated as at: 21 November 2018
A database mishap led to the placement of a National Lottery scratch card ad directly outside of the entrance to a school. The poster featured an image of a rainbow scratch card, priced at £2 with a top prize of £50,000. The complainant challenged whether it was directed at children under 16 years of age.
Rule 17.4 of the CAP Code states that “Marketing communications for lotteries should not be directed at those aged under 16 years through the selection of media or context in which they appear“.
The ASA upheld the complaint, stating concern about the proximity of the poster to the school. It held that, due to its placement, the ad was directed at under-16s as being directly outside the entrance to a school meant that the audience would likely be significantly skewed towards under-16s.
The National Lottery noted that their policy was that ads should not be placed within 100 meters of schools. When placing the ad, the National Lottery had used a database designed to use postcode data to identify and remove schools as potential ad locations. When placing this ad, the database had failed to identify the school.
The National Lottery has since removed the ad and started using a different database to identify school areas when placing ads, which assesses the geographical boundaries of schools rather than school post codes.
Why does this matter:
This ruling demonstrates that advertisers should take care when using automated systems to plan ad placement. The well-worn phrase “a system is only as good as its data” seems appropriate: by framing searches around a pool of post code data, proximity was not reliably assessed. Advertisers should also consider the practical implications of automated system number-crunching. Investment in checks at an early phase of system build, and during the ad placement process, can save time and costs further down the line.
Interestingly, this ruling was published on the same day as the Gambling Commission report on Young People and Gambling, which claims that more than 50,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem, a figure which has quadrupled in just two years. The report found that scratch cards were one of the most popular forms of gambling enjoyed by children aged 11 to 16, although the data on advertising suggests that 11 to 16 year olds are generally more aware of online and TV advertising than of gambling ads on posters and billboards. This awareness trend may be linked in part to the effectiveness of Rule 17.4, as during a typical weekday, children may be less likely to interact with billboard and poster ads than with ads online or on TV. Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission, has called for a joined-up approach to address the issues identified in the report, which may include pressure to tighten current rules around directing ads at those under 16.