Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An ad for Gala Bingo seen on www.365dailynews.co/uk/casino, on 22 May 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 Gala Bingo. With little to no money to spend he admits he laughed and almost scrolled past it until he saw they were offering a promotion to that would reward him with 200 Free Chances At The JACKPOT GIANT Game which at over £700,000.00 was too hard to pass up”. A banner for Gala Bingo at the bottom of the page stated “Get 200 free chances to win £1,060,016.19” with a button labelled “Claim to win” was present throughout the article.
1.The complainant challenged whether the ad made clear its commercial intent.
2.The ASA challenged whether the ad was irresponsible for suggesting that gambling could provide an escape from depression and was a solution to financial concerns.
1.& 2. Gala Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Gala Bingo said that the ad was created by an affiliate and had been removed. They stated that they terminated their agreement with the affiliate in question and that the ad contravened the terms of the agreement they had with the affiliate. Further they said that they had warned all of their affiliated partners of their conduct in respect of these types of ads. In addition, they have issued renewed affiliate guidance to all affiliates to remind them of their obligations.
ClickDealer said that they had entered into an advertising promotion agreement with Gala Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd for the promotion of ad materials. However, they did not create this ad. They had entered into an agreement with a sub-affiliate and the advertising material in question had been created by them. Since receiving the complaint they said they had stopped their collaboration with the sub-affiliate and had issued renewed guidance to their affiliates, highlighting the necessity of strict obedience with the affiliate guidelines in general and the CAP Code particularly.
The ASA noted that Gala Bingo 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 along with the affiliate marketer.
The CAP Code required advertisers to ensure that their marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such, and that they made clear their commercial intent. The ASA considered that 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 further implied by the inclusion of reader comments at the bottom of the article which included “Zoey P Makes me want to give this a shot. Who knows, maybe I’ll win and quit my Jack in the Box job finally LOL. Anyone else tried this? 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 Gala Bingo logo, stated “GET 200 FREE CHANCES TO WIN £1,060,017.02 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 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.
We 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 Gala Bingo. 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 he sold to alleviate his debt and 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 Gala Bingo. 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 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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Gala Bingo and ClickDealer 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.