A TV ad for The Health Lottery seen on 20 September 2018 opened with a man finding a £1 coin down the back of his armchair. Afterwards he walked into a grocery shop and the voice-over stated, “Its George’s lucky day. Now you might think £1 won’t buy you much these days, a loaf of bread, a pint of milk but George knows £1 buys you a chance to play the Health Lottery which now has more chances to win”. At the same time, the coin in the man’s hand turned into a loaf of bread and then a bottle of milk. The voice-over continued “[B]ecause we’re also giving you automatic entry into the new £250,000 monthly mega raffle. So £1 could get you this or this” while daydreaming clouds above the man’s head showed images changing from a car, to a speedboat, to a house. The voice-over then stated, “Nice one George. The Health Lottery, here for those who need us most.”
The complainant, who believed the ad implied that it was better for someone to gamble £1 in a lottery than spend it on essential items such as food, challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible.
Health Lottery ELM Ltd t/a The Health Lottery said that when developing the concept for the ad their key aim was to show that the £1 the man decided to spend on buying a lottery ticket was an unexpected lucky “windfall” found down the back of his armchair and by implication outside of budgeted expenses, such as food and clothing. They said this was reinforced by the statement “it’s George’s lucky day” and intended to portray participation in their lottery as a fun thing to do, if someone found some spare change.
The Health Lottery said that the reference to a loaf of bread and a pint of milk were included as everyday items to indicate that the cost of a Health Lottery ticket was inexpensive compared to the potential reward that players could receive. They said there was no suggestion that someone should spend money on a lottery ticket instead of eating or drinking. The man had not taken £1 from his wallet and then considered the advantages of spending it on bread or milk or a lottery ticket and therefore they did not think the ad breached the Code.
Clearcast said they did not believe the ad suggested that it was better to spend £1 gambling in a lottery rather than to spend it on essential food items; the message was that the cost of the lottery ticket was good value. The ad showed the man finding the coin down the back of his armchair and then going into the shop with the intention of purchasing a lottery ticket because he was feeling lucky.
The ASA noted that the man was first shown drinking a hot drink while sitting in an armchair in what appeared to be a bright and spacious home. The £1 coin the man used to buy the lottery ticket was found down the back of the chair and therefore the discovery of the money was unexpected. The ad played on the common joke that money could be found down the back of a sofa and that money found unexpectedly in such places was a bonus. We therefore considered that viewers would understand that the man was not someone who did not already have basic food essentials and that because he had found a “bonus” coin, as reflected in the look of happy surprise on his face, he was free to spend it on whatever he liked.
We noted that when the man entered the shop, he was not shown pondering whether to buy food or a lottery ticket, but had entered the shop for the specific purpose of buying a lottery ticket with the £1 he had found. The ad did not suggest that the man chose to buy a lottery ticket instead of bread and milk that he needed, but rather those items were included merely by way of comparison to show that everyday food items could be bought for the same price as a £1 lottery ticket, and that if spare money was found, it could be spent on a lottery ticket.
For those reasons we considered that the ad did not suggest that it was better for someone to gamble £1 in a lottery than spend it on essential items such as food. We concluded that the ad was not irresponsible and did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising), 18.2.1 18.2.1 portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm and 18.2.4 18.2.4 portray participating in a lottery as indispensable or as taking priority in life, for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments (Lotteries), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.