A TV ad for online poker, seen on 8 October 2011, showed a man sitting down at his computer and turning on his webcam. A voice-over stated "Turn your webcam on at 888 Poker and play face-to-face online. You never know who you might meet at a poker cam table. Experience PokerCam tables now at 888poker.com. Get £5 free, no deposit needed. 888poker, we play different". The ad showed a virtual poker table with screens around it, showing different people waving at the man and interacting with him, including a group of three women, and a woman lying by a swimming pool in a bikini.
A viewer challenged whether the ad linked gambling with seduction and sexual success.
Cassava Enterprises (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a 888.com (888.com) said they did not believe there was anything in the ad that gave a message of sexual success or enhanced attractiveness, noting that some of the actors in the ad were attractive, but stated that that was not objectionable in itself. They said they had been careful with the ad, and had it cleared by external lawyers and Clearcast.
888.com said the ad aimed to highlight the relatively recent innovation of online poker with webcam, as a socially-interactive and friendly experience. They said the characters in the ad waved to each other as friends and the main character nodded in acknowledgment, showing the online poker room was a fun environment where players could meet people who would become their friends, or where existing friends could meet online for convenience. They said the purely platonic nature of the connections was reinforced by the fact that the group was diverse in terms of gender and age. They said they also used ethnically diverse actors to reflect the wide demographic of 888.com.
888.com said that the woman in a bikini was not shown until sometime after the voice-over stated "you never know who you might meet", and said the time difference between the voice-over and the image was significant, saying the words were clearly more closely associated with the previous shots of friends meeting and greeting each other online.
888.com said the fact that the woman was in a bikini and sunglasses was appropriate because she was being shown on holiday by a swimming pool. They said that was depicted to emphasise that 888's online poker could be enjoyed in a variety of fun and convenient locations, and the difference between her setting and the main character's setting reinforced that 888's poker was fully interactive, instant and not affected by time zones.
888.com said the woman by the pool removed her sunglasses and placed a bet, which was depicted by the chips stacking up on the virtual poker table. They said the main character nodded in acknowledgement of her decision to raise the stakes, while the woman's facial expression was typical of someone who had set others with whom they were playing a challenge. They said that was far from suggestive and added that they did not see any suggestion in the ad that either character was more sexually successful or attractive through playing poker, or that any of the players were seducing one another. They said if there was anything more than an acknowledgment of the hand played by the woman by the pool, it was only an unspoken and very brief mild flirtation.
Clearcast said they endorsed 888.com's comments, and did not feel the ad linked gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness in any way. They said the ad merely showed a cross section of individuals in various locations enjoying the cut and thrust of playing poker with a webcam. They said the ad did not suggest any of the characters became sexually involved.
The ASA noted that online poker with a webcam was a relatively new innovation, and that 888.com wished to show how versatile and interactive it could be through a number of different settings and characters. However we considered that the interactions between characters in the ad were not purely platonic, particularly noting the statement "You never know who you might meet at a poker cam table" and the actions of the woman in the bikini. We considered that the removal of her sunglasses, tilt of her head, and movement of her shoulders as she raised the stakes, were flirtatious and seductive.
We agreed with 888.com's statement that it was acceptable to feature attractive people in advertising, and did not consider that the use of attractive male and female actors in the ad meant seduction or sexual success was implied. However, because we considered the voice-over and the interactions between the players linked gambling and seduction, we concluded the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule 17.3.7 17.3.7 link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness (Gambling).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.