A TV ad for Betfair, seen on 11 November 2018, featured a young man checking his mobile phone and walking down the pavement before going through what appeared to be a ‘secret’ door into a room with a large screen that showed horse racing. The room was busy with other people all watching the screen and atmospheric music played throughout. A voice-over stated, "My gut says that horse is something special and my smarts say to back it on the Betfair Exchange where I get bigger returns than if I bet with one of these other bookies. That's why I go to Betfair. Betfair, where gut instinct meets smarts."
The complainant challenged whether the references to “smarts” in the context of an ad that focused on the excitement of betting experienced by an aspirational figure was irresponsible because it exploited the susceptibilities of young men.
TSE Malta LP t/a Betfair said the ad sought to explain that Betfair offered better value for money compared to other bookmakers in a calm and measured tone. The choice of background music and overall pace of the ad reflected that intention. The main character was not shown placing any bets and there was no suggestion that gambling took priority in the man’s life.
Betfair said the ad did not exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under 18s or other vulnerable people as it sought to educate customers about the odds available at different bookmakers. They said that the main character was not an aspirational figure, and although he was dressed smartly, he was unshaved, his clothes were plain and he had no obvious signs of wealth. He also conveyed a mature and responsible demeanour.
Clearcast said the reference to "smarts" was in relation to the main character taking advantage of the good returns offered by the bookmaker rather than the excitement of betting. The voice-over showed the main character was taking a pragmatic and matter of fact approach without any excitement, rather than making a rash and irresponsible bet, reinforced by the words "That's why I go to Betfair", alluding to the good returns as opposed to a spur of the moment decision.
Clearcast said the main character was over 25 and was portrayed as one of many unremarkable people in a fantastical location designed to be a metaphor for the 'community' of customers using the app. He was not shown to be exulted or held in any high regard by those around him and was only greeted by a small nod.
The ASA noted that the young man in the ad walked through the ‘secret’ door from a busy street into the room in which others were also checking their phones and watching the large screen showing horse racing. We considered that consumers would understand that scene as a representation of someone entering the Betfair community from the outside world. That impression was furthered by the nod of acknowledgement the man received from another character when he approached the screen.
We noted the man wore plain clothes throughout, which was consistent with the other characters shown in the ad. The small nod from the character who greeted him in the room was the only form of acknowledgement he received and the other characters were seen speaking with each other. However, as the man was shown to be leaving a busy street through a ‘secret’ door to a room of Betfair users, we considered the impression created was that he was different to the everyday person. He had a confident demeanour throughout, which was exemplified through the assertive nature with which he approached the screen and nodded back to the person who acknowledged him. In light of that and because the intention of the ad was to demonstrate the “smarts” the man had in making a measured decision to bet on the horse through Betfair Exchange, we considered that he was depicted as an aspirational figure.
When the man approached the screen and held his phone in front of him the voice-over, which was the man’s internal monologue, stated, “My gut says that horse is something special”. That created the impression that the man’s instinct was to place a bet on the horse and he was weighing up whether to do so. The atmospheric music furthered that impression, creating a degree of suspense and leaving viewers wondering whether he would follow through with the action.
The voice-over then revealed more of the man’s thought process, by stating, “… and my smarts say to back it on the Betfair Exchange where I get bigger returns than if I bet with one of these other bookies”. We considered that viewers would understand that following his “gut” related to his decision whether to back the specific horse, while he was using his “smarts” by choosing to place the bet through Betfair Exchange, where the odds were better than the other bookmakers shown. That suggested the man had made a measured decision about where to place his bet, rather than that he believed his “smarts” gave him a better chance of winning.
Although we considered the young man to be an aspirational figure, because we considered the reference to his “smarts” was made clearly in the context of his decision to place a bet on Betfair Exchange, and because the way that decision was made was depicted responsibly, we concluded that the ad had not breached the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 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 and 17.4.4 17.4.4 exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under-18s or other vulnerable persons (Gambling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.