Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A TV ad and claims on www.spingenie.com promoted an online casino:
a. The TV ad included a voice-over of a poem, "You land in a world of magic and fun/ It's exciting, Spin Genie, best adventure bar none/ Open the door to smashing surprises/ Collect goodies that can win you a stash of cash prizes/ Journey with me and the further you go/ The more you could unlock a world full of dough/ Through deserts and mountains, the wonder begins/ Join Spin Genie today for 50 free spins". The ad showed a gold coin smashing into the ground in a desert oasis, before exploding into small casino icons. As it moved from the oasis into a cave under a mountain, gold coins were collected, and jewels and other treasure items were shown. The ad then sped up as gold coins were collected down a mountainside, before panning away to reveal an island.
b. The home page of spingenie.com contained an image of a cartoon dog called Spin, above links entitled "Join", "Play" and "Adventure". Under the "Adventure" link, text stated, "Spin will whisk you away to his magical world through the levels to collect extra bonuses". Underneath, a section called "Spin's picks" showed images of various games. Titles of the games included "Pixies of the Forest", "Fluffy Favourites", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Transformers Battle For Cybertron", "Piggy Payout" and "Pirate Princess".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ad (a); and
2. ad (b)
were likely to be of particular appeal to those under-18 years of age and were therefore irresponsible.
1. Clearcast said each element of the campaign, including the visuals, the voice-over, on-screen text and the background music, was carefully considered to ensure that the overall ad was likely to have general appeal rather than have particular appeal to under-18s.
They said the theme of the ad – collecting coins while navigating through various animated environments – was one that featured across a wide spectrum of video games that were aimed at both children and adults. They had advised that the ad should not resemble any specific video game and should only use imagery that would have general appeal rather than specific appeal to children. They had also advised against showing any specific animated character travelling through the various environments, which could have been too reminiscent of a real video game.
Clearcast said the ad used only recognisable casino, betting and gaming graphics that were clearly linked to the games that featured on the advertised site, such as treasure chests, jewels, coins, and keys, that were unlikely to be deemed to be too cute or juvenile.
They said they worked very closely with the agency to ensure that the choice of featured animated landscapes were all very generic and not too fantastical or child-like in nature, and so that they did not resemble environments in existing video games aimed at children. They ensured that each of the environments did not feature cute animated characters or imagery in the background.
They said the choice of background music was also carefully considered and the agency were advised not to use music that was similar to the type of music that featured in video games of the genre or that could reflect or be associated with youth culture. The music was therefore understated, generic and adult-orientated rather than upbeat and modern. They said the voice-over also featured light-hearted and fun language to highlight the features of the site, but with no specific use of words or phrases that could appeal particularly to under-18s.
Clearcast believed that the ad was likely to be seen as depicting a video game with general appeal, rather than particular appeal to under-18s.
Bear Group Ltd (t/a Spin Genie) said the ad was broadcast only after the watershed and was only shown during ad breaks of shows which were indexed as having an adult audience. They said the ad was never targeted at under-18s.
2. Spin Genie said their product was aimed at the casual gambling market. They said their customers were predominantly females, aged 25–44. They believed their customers enjoyed mobile-based games that had become mainstream due to the popularity of the Apple and Google Play stores. They said many of those games were characterised by having 'fun' branding with animated or highly stylised characters, which were not directed at under-18s, and a sense of adventure.
They said the character Spin was a hand-drawn/animated character, which had been deliberately drawn to avoid Disney-style imagery or other well-known cartoon characters that would be attractive to children. They said they had specifically wanted to avoid creating a dog that looked 'cute and cuddly', and believed that they had created an adult-themed character; for example, Spin wore a scarf and had a noticeable paunch. They said, being an entirely new character, Spin had no connection to youth culture and would not be recognisable by children or young people.
Spin Genie said, while they understood that some cartoons might occasionally appeal to children, they were not exclusively enjoyed by children.
They did not think that the text used in the ad would appeal to children. They said that "adventure" was synonymous with a 'risky activity', which was an adult concept which they believed could be reasonably applied to gambling. There were also a number of references to common gambling terms and recognisable casino imagery, and that the site was quite explicit in the nature of the gambling services offered.
Spin Genie said all of the casino games offered on their website were supplied by third-party games providers, and none of the games were exclusive to them. They said many of the games were also supplied to hundreds of other gaming sites operating in the UK, and that the titles of the games were set by third-party suppliers.
The BCAP Code stated that ads for gambling must not be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more strongly to under-18s than they did to over-18s, regardless of when they were broadcast.
We noted that the ad did not have an adult theme, and although we acknowledged that it might appeal to some adults, we considered that it was reminiscent of a child's video game. We noted that the voice-over was read in the style of a rhyming poem, and considered that the language used, such as, "You land in a world of magic and fun" and "the wonder begins" created an impression of adventure. That impression was added to by the graphics, including the brightly-coloured treasure, and the music, as well as 'shimmering' magic sound effects. We considered that 'adventure' was a theme which was common in children's programmes and games, and that, in combination with the other elements of the ad, the overall theme was child-like, and was more likely to appeal to under-18s than adults.
We considered that the combination of the language, music, sound effects, and imagery used was likely to mean that the ad would appeal particularly to under-18s. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and had breached the Code.
Ad (a) breached BCAP Code rule
be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture
The CAP Code also required that gambling ads did not appeal more strongly to under-18s than they did to over-18s.
We considered that the use of cartoons or cartoon-like imagery had the potential to appeal to children and young persons, and it was therefore important that they were used carefully in ads for gambling products. While we noted Spin Genie’s comments about the appearance of the “Spin” character, we considered that he was not adult in nature and, given that animated animals were very common in children’s programming, the character was likely to appeal particularly to children, especially in the context of the claim, "Spin will whisk you away to his magical world through levels to collect extra bonuses".
The names of games such as "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Transformers" would be familiar with children and young persons, and we considered that those and a number of the other games had names which were likely to appeal to under-18s, such as "Fluffy Favourites", "Piggy Payout" and "Pirate Princess". Those games were also presented with cartoon-like imagery, which was likely to strengthen that appeal.
Although we acknowledged that other games on the site would have general or more adult appeal, including some that featured cartoon-like imagery that would have particular appeal to adults – for example, the game based on the television programme South Park – we considered that the website was likely to appeal particularly to under-18s, and therefore concluded that it was irresponsible and had breached the Code.
Ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 16.1 Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited. and 16.3.12 16.3.12 be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture (Gambling).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Bear Group Ltd to ensure in future that their ads for gambling products did not appeal particularly to those under-18 years of age.