ASA penalises Ladbrokes for ad deemed “socially irresponsible”
Ladbrokes, the British operator, has been sanctioned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) after criticism of an on-demand video advertisement. The ad was released on the 25th of October 2020, and takes place in a café. It displays many customers in the café using the Ladbrokes app on their mobile phones. Then, a narration says ‘come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves,’ as man’s legs start shaking as they watch footage from a horse race.
The complaint stated that the advertisement portrayed gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.
Ladbrokes replied to this complaint by saying that it: “Did not believe the ad depicted socially irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling.”
Both Clearcast (who is in charge of cleaning ads for broadcast on British commercial television) and Channel 4 have both supported the British bookmaker. Clearcast proclaimed that the person in the advertisement was not detached from his surroundings at all, he was in fact focused on watching the face on television. He was not shown to be obsessed with his wager.
Similarly, Channel 4 also remarked that it was not convinced that the advertisement was capable of causing financial, social and emotional harm in any way and argued that it was not “socially irresponsible”. The broadcaster also explained various approaches that could have caused an issue if the creators of the ad had utilised them, which they had not.
Ladbrokes, which is a subsidiary of Entain Plc, has further attested that the individual featured in the advertisement was only feeling nervous before the starter’s orders, which is a normal feeling many people experience prior to sporting events. The operator also said that many people practice safe betting on a weekly basis, and that the intention of the advertisement was only to promote the app as being entertaining, as well as display the joy that people feel when they bet on sports and racing.
The ASA further explained:
We disagreed with Clearcast’s view that the man was never disconnected from his companion, or from the room, and considered viewers would assume from his behaviour that he was preoccupied with the outcome of the race in relation to a bet he had placed. We also considered that the man was obviously detached from his surroundings as he watched.
The ASA remarked in its assessment that the CAP Code says that advertising should not display, allow or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could potentially lead to any personal, social, emotions or financial harm in any way.
Ladbrokes has apparently been told that its future advertising does not represent socially irresponsible betting behaviour, including detachment from surroundings and an obsession with the wager itself. As the UK Gambling Commission goes on with its review of the 2005 Gambling Act, gambling has been under intense inquiry and investigation. A ban on betting operator football shirt sponsorships is also a possible outcome of this review.