A press ad for an online casino, seen in the Daily Mirror, stated "FREE £5 TO PLAY WITH TODAY" and featured a number of cartoon characters, including Optimus Prime from Transformers.
The complainant objected that the ad was irresponsible, because it was likely to appeal to children.
Trinity Mirror Plc (Trinity Mirror) said the ad featured a licensed image of Optimus Prime from Transformers because one of the games that could be played on Mirror Casino was a Transformers branded game. They also said the Transformers brand was not targeted at children or those under 18 years of age and was one of three images intended to give a flavour of MirrorCasino.com. They said the ad appeared only in the Money section of the newspaper and made clear that the website was for over 18s only and that anyone wanting to bet was required to prove that they were aged 18 or over, by reference to a valid credit card and through compliance with an age verification system.
Whilst they believed the ad would not be likely to appeal to children and was not irresponsible, they provided their assurance that they would not use the ad, or the Transformers image, to advertise Mirror Casino in future.
The ASA welcomed Trinity Mirror's assurance that the ad, and the image of Optimus Prime, would not be used in future to advertise Mirror Casino. The ad appeared in the Money section of The Daily Mirror and we were therefore satisfied that the ad had not been directly targeted at children or young people. However, the Code stated that marketing communications for gambling products should not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young people, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. We considered that the depiction of the popular comic book character was likely to have particular appeal to children and young people, regardless of the context in which it appeared and therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility), 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: and 16.3.12 16.3.12 be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Trinity Mirror not use images that were likely to appeal to children or young people in future gambling ads.