A display ad for Kwiff, a gambling app, seen within a news article about the Junior Blues on the Portsmouth FC website on the 15 December 2022, featured text that said, “Grab up to 200 Cash Free Spins on Book of Dead! Wager £20 on slots and Get 40 Cash Free Spins for five consecutive days. Sign Up Kwiff”. Qualifying text in the ad said, “18+ new customers only. £20 stake on slots each day within 5 days of 1st deposit to qualify. £0.1 Spins on Book of Dead. £250 total max withdrawal. Full T&Cs apply”.
The ASA challenged whether the ad was appropriately targeted.
Eaton Gate Gaming Ltd t/a Kwiff said the ad was seen on the news section of the Portsmouth FC website but not in “Join the Junior Blues” membership pages or any other section of the website dedicated to children and young people.
They explained that the ad was not publicly available. It was dynamic and the content of its location changed based on the viewer’s online behaviour, the data obtained by the technology used, and the advertiser.
They said the behavioural targeting they used was a precise and accurate tool used to get a maximum return on ad spending and so limited underage viewing. The software was intended to target individuals in specific profiles, made up by age, location and interests and excluded under 18s. All participants in the ad delivery process were obliged to adhere to regulatory obligations and check the sites supplied and the placing of ads with spot-checks. They said their processes adhered to ASA guidelines that said that relevant tools should be used for targeting and any ads directed at audiences based on data held targeting measures should be used to minimise the chances of those in the protected age category from seeing them. They acknowledged that even using the best technology, there was a small chance that ads could be seen by minors. From their tracking data they could see that 33 individuals had interacted with the ad and all passed age-verification because their targeting function worked appropriately. In addition the majority of the people served the ad were existing players of Kwiffs and so had been age-verified when they had registered.
They said that an important point was that portsmouthfc.co.uk website was not specifically directed at children and the area where the ad was seen, the news section, was not targeting children. In addition, the article was not written in such a way to appeal to a child audience. They also said the ad itself, in content and design, did not appeal to children. They therefore had followed guidance in identifying categories of media aimed at or commissioned for children and avoided them. Because the media was not aimed at children then any further controls put in place, such as targeting, should be considered.
They said that the statement, “do not worry if you are aged 18 or over, as we also have adult membership packages available” could not be used to state the article was primarily seen by those under 18. The page included a number of packages, Pompey Pup (up to four years old), Pompey Junior (5 to 12 years old) and Pompey Teen (13 to 17 years old) and so the mention of such ages could infer the article was, for example, directed at under fours but that was not realistic and actually it was meant for parents. In addition, to become a Portsmouth FC member it required a payment, by debit or credit card, of £27.50 and so that indicated the article was directed at parents or relatives and not children.
The CAP Code required that marketing communications for gambling must not be directed at those aged younger than 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appeared.
The ASA noted the sophisticated targeting tools that Kwiff had used to place their ad and the lengths which they had taken to apply those tools. Nevertheless, when considering complaints about targeting of age-restricted ads, we assessed whether the media alongside which the ad was served was appropriate together with the context in which it appeared, before considering further aspects of how the ad was targeted.
The ad appeared on a news article on the Portsmouth FC website. The article was headlined “Join the Junior Blues” and outlined the membership packages available for the three junior supporter groups for Portsmouth FC, which were Pompey Pup (up to four years old), Pompey Junior (5 to 12 years old) and Pompey Teen (13 to 17 years old). The content of the page therefore was of immediate interest to young people as it exclusively related to services aimed at under 18s. That was compounded by the presence of an image of the Portsmouth FC mascot on the article, a dog, tthat was presented on the page in cartoon form.
The web page referred to packages aimed at children too young to easily access the content, specifically the Pompey Pup and the lower end of the Pompey Junior membership, and therefore it was reasonable in those limited instances to expect that the article would be more of interest to parents. However, it also included packages for older children, who may have direct access to the website and be interested in a news article which spoke directly to them through the headline and design. In addition, text at the bottom of the article stated, “Click here to join the Junior Blues today – and do not worry if you are aged 18 or over, as we also have adult membership packages available”. Therefore, the article, by making the distinction between those over 18 and referring to them separately for adult packages, indicated that the page was primarily directed at readers under 18 who could either use the article as a starting point to engage parents or relatives to become a member or for older children go on to buy the membership directly from the website.
Because the ad appeared in the context of a web page that was directed at those younger than 18 years, it did not comply with the rules on gambling advertising.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.13 (Gambling).
The ad must not be served to the article again. Future ads should not be directed at those aged below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appear.