Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
An ad for Ladbrokes Casino seen on www.24hourlynews.co.uk, on 2 June 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 Ladbrokes 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 to that [sic] would reward him with 600 Free Chances At Age of The Gods 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 Ladbrokes at the bottom of the page stated “Get 600 free spins to win £1,060,012.71” with a button labelled “Claim to win”.
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 made clear its commercial intent.
1.& 2. Ladbrokes Betting & Gambling Ltd said that the ad was created by an affiliate and had been removed. They stated they were not able to identify the affiliate responsible for the ad in the circumstance under investigation, although they had received a complaint about a similar ad and had terminated their agreement with the affiliate responsible in that instance. Further they said that the ad contravened the terms of the agreement they had with the affiliate and that they have 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.”
The ASA noted that Ladbrokes 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 Ladbrokes. 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 Ladbrokes.
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 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 “Ryan P My brother works in the online gambling industry and Ladbrokes is notoriously known for having some of the loosest slot machines in the industry. I’ve tripled my $$ Lindsay K. ^hi Ryan. I’ve heard that as well. I am anxious to find out for myself. Thanks”. We noted that throughout the article a banner ad which contained the Ladbrokes logo and stated “GET 600 FREE CHANCES TO WIN £1,060,011.76 CLAIM NOW”. However, we considered that genuine news articles also often contained similar banner ads and therefore its inclusion did not make clear the ads 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 2.3 Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context. (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ladbrokes Betting & Gambling Ltd 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.