An internet display ad for a betting company, seen on 18 January 2016 on the website www.arsenalstation.com, included text set out in three different frames. Two of those stated “THE #1 WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR BETTING” and “LEARN HOW TO WIN!”. The other showed the text “SAVE YOURSELF” and a silhouette of a man hanging from a rope by his neck.
The complainant, who was concerned about the depiction of suicide in the context of a gambling ad, challenged whether it was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence, in particular to those affected by suicide, mental health conditions or gambling problems.
FanBet said the ad had not been intended to cause harm or offence, but they acknowledged the complainant’s concern and had removed the ad as soon as the ASA contacted them. They said greater care would be taken in future.
Arsenal Station said they had been unaware that the ad included three different slides and so had not noticed the silhouette of the man hanging. They had removed the ad as soon as they were made aware of the complaint and said they would check material they included on their site closely in future. Arsenal Station had not received any complaints directly.
The ASA acknowledged the steps FanBet and Arsenal Station had taken to address the complainant’s concern. However, the CAP Code stated that marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to protecting vulnerable persons from being harmed. We considered the silhouette, particularly in conjunction with the text “THE #1 WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR BETTING”, “LEARN HOW TO WIN!” and “SAVE YOURSELF”, created an association between gambling and suicide that was irresponsible in a gambling ad. We were also concerned that the ad presented suicide in a light hearted way and suggested that continued gambling could address previous poor results, and/or associated suicidal feelings, in particular because consumers affected by such issues might be vulnerable. In addition, we considered the ad was likely to cause serious offence, as a result of the light hearted reference to suicide, in particular to those affected by suicide, mental health conditions or gambling problems. For the reasons given, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence) and 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. (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told FanBet to ensure their future ads were responsible, particularly with regard to the need to protect vulnerable groups, and that they contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.