Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A TV ad and a VOD ad for Paddy Power, seen in March 2022:
a. The TV ad showed a young man using his phone to gamble on Paddy Power’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ game in a living room whilst family were present. The young man briefly looked away from his screen to thank his partner’s mother for bringing him a drink, before he returned to looking at the game on his phone. A voice-over said, “With Paddy Power’s Wonder Wheel you get a free spin with a chance to win cash prizes every single day”. The man’s partner asked him, “Do you think I will end up looking like my Mum?” He replied, “I hope so” while looking at his phone before appearing to realise what he had said was inappropriate. A voice-over said, “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games.” He then continued to look at the game on his phone.
b. The VOD ad, seen on My5 and All4, was the same as ad (a).
1. Two complainants, who believed that the ads showed someone so occupied by gambling that they made an inappropriate remark in conversation, challenged whether they portrayed gambling as taking priority in life and were therefore irresponsible.
2. One complainant, who considered the ad encouraged repeated gambling in the face of a loss, challenged whether the claim in “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” ad (b) encouraged gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.
3. The ASA challenged whether the same claim in ad (a) encouraged gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.
1. PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power said the ad implied a commitment to family life by portraying the scene of a traditional family setting where a young man had dutifully gone to his girlfriend’s parents’ house for Sunday lunch. They said the scene suggested that the family had finished their lunch and were now free to do their own thing after they had all adjourned to the living room. They said this was indicated by the mother serving coffee, the father doing a crossword and the young man playing a game on his phone while he sat next to his girlfriend on the sofa. They noted the man had not left the room to play the game separately from the family or tried to conceal what he was doing from his girlfriend.
They said the young man was aware of his surroundings and acknowledged the people around him several times throughout the ad. They said when the mother entered the room carrying a tray, he looked up from his phone and acknowledged her immediately and made direct eye contact before saying, “Thank you Mrs Peters” and then watched the mother as she bent down to put the coffee down on the table. They said when the young man’s girlfriend asked him if he thought she would end up looking like her mother, and he had responded “I hope so”, it was clear that he had been paying very close attention to his surroundings and what he had been thinking.
They said when the young man realised that he may have offended his girlfriend, he immediately looked away from his phone and made direct eye contact with her for a prolonged period. They said the young man and his girlfriend were depicted sitting closely together throughout the entirety of the ad, even after he had made the awkward comment. They stated this was deliberate, to ensure it was viewed as a light-hearted comment and there was no risk of this having caused seriousoffence to his girlfriend.
They understood that CAP guidance said it was generally acceptable for marketing communications to show gambling as being interesting to the characters portrayed or as an entertaining leisure activity, as long as it was not to the exclusion of other activities or interactions with people. They believed the young man’s interactions with the other characters throughout the ad demonstrated that he was not preoccupied with gambling or detached from his surroundings. They said the ad was intended to be light-hearted in tone and that the young man did not display signs of problematic gambling behaviour at any stage. He was calm, measured and casually enjoying the gambling product at an appropriate opportunity during his own leisure time. Therefore, they believed the overall tone of the ad did not portray gambling as taking priority in life.
Clearcast did not believe the ad portrayed the young man as preoccupied with gambling or that gambling was taking priority in his life over interacting with his girlfriend’s family. They said the story of the ad was simply that he was clumsily candid when talking to his girlfriend. They reiterated Paddy Power’s comments that the young man was always aware of his surroundings and noted he had acknowledged his girlfriend’s mother, as well as listening to his girlfriend’s question before providing her with an overly honest answer. They said although the young man’s answer was rather ungallant and revealed too much of what he really thought about his girlfriend’s mother, there was no suggestion that he answered that way because he was preoccupied by the game. They believed the scenario was relatable to the average viewer and spoke more about the young man’s character and his relationship with his girlfriend than about his gambling.
They noted that although the young man’s girlfriend and her father gave disapproving facial reactions to his answer, neither of them vocalised their disapproval. Nevertheless, the young man looked up from his phone, embarrassed, showing that he was aware of their reactions rather than being absorbed in the game to the exclusion of all else. They said he then continued to look at his girlfriend apologetically for five seconds, a significant portion of a 30-second advert. They said his attention only returned to his phone when the fanfare sound announced a win. Therefore, they were content that the ad did not show gambling as taking priority in this man’s life over his family and personal relationships.
All4 and My5 said the ad was checked and subsequently cleared for broadcast by Clearcast. My5 reiterated the comments made by Clearcast and believed the ad did not suggest that gambling should take priority over family life.
2 & 3. Paddy Power did not believe the line “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” encouraged repeated gambling in the face of a loss.
They said the line should be considered in the context of the ad as a whole, where it referred to the fact that the young man had “stuffed up” by making a comment to his girlfriend about her mother. They said the line directly referenced a real-life example of stuffing up and did not refer to losing a bet.
They said the ad referenced the fact customers could have one free spin a day on the Wonder Wheel game. They said if a user did not win with their free spin, they would get another chance to win with a free spin the next day. They believed the ad did not promote socially irresponsible gambling, because it was not advertising a paid-for gambling game, merely a free game where players have one spin in any period of 24 hours. They said the ad made no inducements to gamble frequently or excessively, nor did it depict anyone doing so.
Clearcast reiterated Paddy Power’s comments and said that the ad was not promoting any paid-for gambling game but a free game where players had one spin per day. They were content that the ad did not encourage irresponsible or harmful repeat gambling and therefore were happy to clear the ad for broadcast.
All4 and My5 said the ad was checked and subsequently cleared for broadcast by Clearcast. My5 reiterated the comments made by Clearcast and believed the ad did not encourage gambling behaviour in a socially irresponsible way.
The CAP and BCAP Codes required that ads did not portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family or friends. The ASA considered that the man depicted in the ads was taking part in a family event, where he and his girlfriend had gone to her parents’ house for lunch.
We acknowledged the family members were enjoying different activities after lunch, and whilst the young man’s focus throughout the ad was generally directed towards the screen of his phone, he did look up to thank his girlfriend’s mother for making him a coffee before returning to his game. However, we considered the young man then became engaged in his gambling game to the extent that he made an unwitting and embarrassing comment aloud, which was clearly not his intent and was clearly caused by his distraction and investment in the gambling game. We noted the young man quickly realised he had made a gaffe and looked up at his girlfriend apologetically, but that moment was brief and he quickly returned to his phone to continue the gambling game and celebrate a win, whilst his girlfriend remained angry and embarrassed.
We considered that the humour in the ad relied on a gaffe caused when the man was distracted by the gambling game, which created a comedic moment of awkwardness and embarrassment. We recognised the ad was light-hearted in tone but considered that most viewers would understand that the young man behaved in a way which was not appropriate at a family event because he was distracted by gambling. We considered that the girlfriend’s shocked expression in response to his answer supported the assumption that he would not ordinarily be so tactless in his communication.
Although we accepted it was a brief moment, because we considered most viewers would understand that distraction caused by gambling had caused an embarrassing gaffe at a family event, and therefore concluded that the ad portrayed gambling as taking priority in life over family.
On that point, ad (a) breached BCAP Code rule 17.3.4 17.3.4 portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments (Gambling), and ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 16.3.5 16.3.5 portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments
2 & 3. Upheld
The CAP and BCAP Codes stated that marketing communications or ads for gambling must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP and BCAP’s Advertising Guidance on Gambling Advertising: responsibility and problem gambling, also stated that marketers should take care to avoid trivialising gambling and avoid the impression that the decision to gamble should be taken lightly, for example by not encouraging repetitive participation.
The ad depicted a young man making a gaffe at a family event and, in that context, we acknowledged that the statement “So no matter how badly you stuff it up” would be seen by some viewers as a reference to the embarrassing comment the man had made in the presence of his partner’s family. The ad further stated that there was an opportunity to win prizes “every single day” and we noted the advertised ‘Wonder Wheel’ game offered players one free spin in any period of 24 hours. We acknowledged the statement “You’ll always get another chance” would be understood by some viewers as a reference to the daily availability of the advertised game.
However, we also considered that the full statement “You’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” would be taken as a general reference to gambling and gambling outcomes; for example, to playing other or multiple gambling games offered by Paddy Power. We further considered that the statement “You’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” in conjunction with the statement “So no matter how badly you stuff it up” gave the impression that the decision to gamble, even in the face of repeated losses, should be taken lightly. We considered it was therefore likely to encourage repetitive or frequent participation in gambling. For that reason, we concluded that the ad was likely to encourage gambling behaviour that was harmful and therefore breached the Codes.
On those points, ad (a) breached BCAP Code (Edition 12) rule 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), and ad (b) breached CAP Code rule 16.3.1 16.3.1 misrepresent the body, its activities or the benefits of donated funds or exaggerate the scale or nature of the cause it claims to support
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power to ensure that future ads did not portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life, or portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.