Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An ad for Casumo seen on www.casinohacks.co, on 21 March 2017 under the headline “On Their Wedding Night He Delivered A Secret She Wasn’t Ready For. The Result Will Have You In Tears” 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 Casumo Casino. 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 200 Free Chances At The Reel King Game which at over £700,000.00 was too hard to pass up”. At the bottom of the page there were “Comments” on the news article in which ‘readers’ discussed their winning stories. A banner for Casumo at the bottom of the page stated “Get 200 free chances to win £1,060,011.48” with a button labelled “Claim Now” that 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 was obviously identifiable as such and made clear its commercial intent.
1& 2. Casumo Services Ltd t/a Casumo said that the ad was created by a Media Buyer and had been removed. They requested that the Media Buyer forward all their content to Casumo for approval. They said that they did not condone the contents of the ad. Further they said that as a matter of procedure they inform all their marketing business partners and affiliates of their own advertising guidelines which reflect the CAP Code. If one of these partners fails to adhere to the guidelines they will terminate the relationship.
The ASA noted that Casumo 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 Casumo. 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 that had been sold to alleviate his debt and to pay for his expensive honeymoon. The image of the bank statement shown in the ad indicated that William was over drawn when he made the decision to place a £10 bet with Casumo. The ad further stated that “Down on his luck their ‘200 Free Jackpot Chances’ turned his life around”.
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 Marketing communications must not: 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 noted that the ad had a banner at the top of the page which stated “Advertorial.” We understood that an advertorial was editorial content that promoted a product and where the advertiser had paid for the promotion and was therefore advertising. We considered that this article was not an “advertorial”, rather it was content which had been prepared by the affiliate advertiser and did not appear in the context of other genuinely editorial content. For that reason we did not consider that the label “advertorial” was sufficient to label this ad and therefore did not consider it relevant in this case to assess whether the label ‘advertorial’ would be sufficient in cases of genuine advertorial content. We also noted that the text was in small writing and although it was at the top of the page we considered it was likely to be over looked by consumers regardless of its wording.
The ad gave the impression that it was a news article reporting on William’s story which was supported by the inclusion of the phrase “our own Daily News reporter” and the editorial style of the narrative. This was supported by the inclusion of reader comments at the bottom of the article which included “Zoey P Get me that money! Depositing tonight…Jenni C. @Zoey Jus [sic] to let you know I signed up an [sic] won a few thousand the first week :)”. We noted that throughout the article a banner ad which contained the Casumo logo and stated “GET 200 FREE CHANCES TO WIN £1,060,011.48 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 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. and 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications).”
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Casumo 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.