Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An ad for Sky Vegas seen on www.uk.24hoursnews.co on 29 April 2017 had the appearance of an editorial article. It included text such as “… William is also over £130,000 in debt after having to sell the house and continue to pay out of pocket for his wife’s cancer related medical bills their insurance WOULDN’T cover … William took to Facebook one night in the hospital lobby to update his friends and family on his wife’s health … A little tired and admittedly a bit depressed, William stumbled upon an ad for Sky Vegas. With little to no money to spend he admits he laughed and almost scrolled past it until he saw they were offering a promotion that would reward him with £10 free at The Jackpot 7 Game which at over £700,000.00 was too hard to pass up”. A banner for Sky Vegas at the bottom of the page stated “Get £10 free to win £1,060,012.75” with a button labelled “Claim to win” was present throughout the article.
1. The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible for suggesting that gambling could provide an escape from depression and was a solution to financial concerns.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad made clear its commercial intent.
1.& 2. Bonne Terre Ltd t/a Sky Vegas said that the ad was created by an affiliate and that the ad was not commissioned, approved, sanctioned or discussed with Sky Vegas and they were therefore unable to comment on the content of the ad. They stated that the affiliate had acted in breach of their agreement with Sky Vegas and they had therefore terminated their agreement with the affiliate in question. Further they said that their affiliates were sent regular communications with regard to marketing compliance.
Sky Vegas stated that they were dedicated to ensuring that their marketing was compliant, and had a robust marketing approval process together with on-going training for all employees involved in marketing. Affiliates were contractually required to comply with the advertising codes and have all ads approved by Sky Vegas in advance. On this occasion the advertorial had not been submitted to Sky Vegas for clearance and if it had been, would not have passed their approvals process. Furthermore, Sky Vegas monitored their affiliates’ activities using third-party software and also sent them regular communications with regard to compliance.
The ASA noted that Sky Vegas was the company whose products were being advertised and that it was their website that consumers were directed to. Although we acknowledged that they maintained the ad had been produced by an affiliate, we nonetheless considered that, as the beneficiaries of the marketing material, they were responsible for the ad and for responding to the ASA investigation.
The CAP Code stated that ads must not suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal problems such as depression or that it can be a solution to financial concerns.
The ASA considered that the content of the ad targeted vulnerable people as it identified a number of personal difficulties William had to overcome, including having to sell his property to pay his wife’s medical bills, dealing with his wife’s cancer and how he did this through taking up the offer by Sky Vegas. The ad specifically stated how William was depressed when he saw the ad and made the decision to gamble. Further, it stated “Having won over 30 times his annual salary in a single spin, his debt and financial worries came to an abrupt end”. It explained that through gambling he won enough money to pay off his wife’s medical bills, re-purchase the house which had been sold to alleviate his debt and to pay for his expensive honeymoon.
Because we considered that the ad suggested gambling could provide an escape from personal problems such as depression and that it could be a solution to financial concerns, we considered it to be socially irresponsible and was therefore in breach of the Code.
On this point the ad 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. 16.3, 16.3.3 16.3.3 suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression and 16.3.4 16.3.4 suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security (Gambling).
The CAP Code required advertisers to ensure that their marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such, and that they made clear their commercial intent. We considered that the ad gave the impression that it was a news article reporting on William’s story which was supported by the editorial style of the narrative. We noted that throughout the article, a banner ad which contained the Sky Vegas logo and stated “GET £10 FREE TO WIN £1,060,012.75 CLAIM NOW”. However, we considered that genuine news articles also often contained similar banner ads and therefore its inclusion did not make clear the ad’s commercial intent. We therefore concluded that the article was not obviously identifiable as an ad and the commercial intent was not immediately clear.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 and 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sky Vegas that their future ads, including those prepared by affiliates, must be clearly identifiable as marketing communications and to take care to ensure their ads were prepared in a socially responsible way.