A TV ad for Ladbrokes, seen on 10 April 2021, began with a voice-over that stated, “I’m a nodder: up to the football, down to the app like a dog on a dashboard.” The scene showed a man looking up at a football game on the screen and then back to his phone where he appeared to be placing bets. The next scene showed a man at a train station who appeared to be using the Ladbrokes app on his phone. The accompanying voice-over stated, “When I bet I’m a frustrated manager. I kick every ball.” The scene showed the man making kicking motions and visibly frustrated. His actions caused a glance from another person waiting at the station who was standing normally.
The third scene featured three men watching football. The accompanying voice-over stated, “If I’ve got an acca [accumulator] coming in, I find myself getting very excited.” The scene showed the three men jumping and screaming after a goal was scored. The screen then showed that the goal was being reviewed by the VAR (Video assistant referee). The three men were depicted looking extremely tense and nervous. One of the men said, “I just want the cheer.” The other man said, “Not yet.” The two men who had spoken were then shown with nervous faces. Finally, the Ladbrokes logo was displayed accompanied by the voice-over, “However you like to play, we’ve got your bet. Boost your acca odds at Ladbrokes.com.”
The complainant, who believed that the ad portrayed people who appeared to be addicted to gambling, challenged whether the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.
LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes responded that the ad went through a thorough review and sign off, and they had sought advice about a VOD version of the ad from CAP’s Copy Advice service. They said that the concept of the ad was to present the feelings experienced around football matches. The scenes showed people watching football and reacting to it in the way that a football fan might.Referring to CAP’s Advertising Guidance “Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling”, Ladbrokes said that none of the scenes depicted behaviour that the guidance highlighted as indicators of problem gambling. They said the characters were engaged with their surroundings and watching football. They also said the ad did not suggest solitary gambling was preferable to social gambling, depict gambling in the workplace, or suggest that it was an escape from problems or a solution to financial concerns.
Clearcast also considered the ad did not depict a gambling addict exhibiting problem gambling behaviour. They said that all the scenes showed men enjoying and engaged in football. In their view, none of the characters in the ad were detached from their surroundings and the ad depicted them going about their business. They said that whilst the characters were engaged with their bets and showed excitement at the anticipation of the results of the football, they did not consider that was socially irresponsible.
The CAP Code stated that ads must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP’s Advertising Guidance “Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling” made clear that ads which portrayed or otherwise referred to individuals displaying problem gambling behaviours or other behavioural indicators linked to problem gambling were likely to breach the Code. Marketers should take care to avoid an implication of such behaviours, for instance, with outwardly light-hearted or humorous approaches that could be regarded as portrayals of those behaviours. Behaviours associated with people displaying or at risk from problem gambling included detachment from surroundings, preoccupation with gambling and mood swings (including highs and lows, irritability and shortness of temper).
The ASA acknowledged Clearcast and Ladbrokes’ view that the ad depicted the emotions involved in enjoying football. However, in the first scene, the man nodding up and down appeared to be continually placing bets rather than being focused on the game itself and as such appeared to have a preoccupation with his betting. We considered that the accompanying voice-over, “I’m a nodder, up to the football, down to the app like a dog on a dashboard”, was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to a man who repeated that behaviour all through the game, and who was engrossed in betting.
We also acknowledged Clearcast’s view that the ad depicted men going about their business and aware of their surroundings. However, the second scene depicted a man on a station platform miming kicking a ball in frustration, unaware of his proximity to another passenger who was shown reacting to his behaviour. The ad made clear from the voice-over, “When I bet I’m a frustrated manager, I kick every ball”, that his behaviour was as a result of his betting, rather than just enjoying football. On that basis, we considered that the ad depicted a man who appeared to be detached from his surroundings and who had a preoccupation with gambling.
The voice-over that accompanied the third scene stated, “If I’ve got an acca [accumulator] coming in, I find myself getting very excited.” We considered viewers would interpret that to mean that the men’s excitement was coming from potentially winning an accumulator, rather than the football. We considered that the three men were depicted swinging from high levels of excitement to extreme tension as they waited for the outcome of the VAR’s review of footage. We considered that mood swings related to gambling was a problem gambling behaviour. Because the ad appeared to depict a major mood swing and directly related it to the tension of potentially winning an accumulator, rather than just watching sports, we considered that the ad depicted problem gambling behaviour.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, and therefore breached the Code.The ad breached BCAP Code rules 17.3 17.3 Advertisements must not: and 17.3.1 17.3.1 portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm (Gambling).
We told LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes to ensure future ads did not depict gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, including problem gambling behaviour such as detachment from surroundings, mood swings, and preoccupation with gambling.