The advertising regulatory body of the UK published a ruling as part of a wider piece of work suspending gambling adverts that are no longer allowed to be published or aired because they could be found appealing by minors. As revealed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the ads were challenged for investigation after intelligence gathered by the watchdog’s Active Ad Monitoring system which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to actively search for online adverts that might violate the rules.
As part of the ASA’s latest action, Ladbrokes felt the regulator’s backlash because of four advertisements featuring tweets promoting betting on tennis matches. The tweets were seen between January and February 2023. They showcased the Australian Open tournament and were aimed at raising users’ engagement with questions and polls, while also featuring the names and pictures of a number of world-famous tennis stars, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Nick Kyrgios.
The Advertising Standards Authority challenged whether the adverts featured an individual who was likely to be found appealing by individuals under 18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.
Ladbrokes Responds to Accusations That Four Ads Could Be Appealing to Under-18s
LC International Ltd, trading as Ladbrokes, responded to the regulatory body’s accusations, saying that the four controversial tweets were intended as editorial content designed to raise the audience’s engagement.
Two of the four controversial tweets praised Novak Djokovic’s impressive form, while the two other ads featured polls which asked people to vote on questions related to tennis at the time of the Australian Open tournament. The gambling operator acknowledged that the tweets included imagery, names and references to prominent tennis players but claimed that the company reviewed each of the players’ media profiles beforehand to make sure that his sponsorship partnerships and follower demographic would not make the tweets particularly appealing to under-18s.
The company presented data on the number of followers each of the tennis players had on Instagram and Facebook broken down by age groups to prove that hardly any of their followers, especially the ones on Twitter (now X), were below the age of 21. Ladbrokes shared that its analysts believed that the data gathered proved that the four players were appealing to older audiences rather than to minors. The company also stated that each of the four players had brand partnerships that would appeal to adults.
Still, the gambling operator acknowledged the fact that Twitter users self-verified their age, which could mean that the data was not always accurate. The company, however, had tried to add an extra level of assurance by specially targeting the social media ads to reach only people over the age of 25. According to data provided by Ladbrokes, the impressions for all Twitter ads varied between 24,653 and 35,050, with only one impression in the 18 to 24 age group, which the operator considered an anomaly.
The Advertising Regulator Deems Ladbrokes’ Controversial Ads as Irresponsible
In its turn, the Advertising Standards Authority stated that as of October 1st, 2022, the CAP Code rules require gambling companies to make sure their products are not of strong appeal to children or young people, particularly by making associations with youth culture. That is the reason why gambling operators are not allowed to feature persons or characters who are likely to be considered role models by under-18s.
According to the ASA, sports stars including tennis players are normally considered high-risk within the “Gambling and lotteries: protecting under 18s” guidance of the CAP in terms of how likely such individuals were to be of strong appeal to minors.
As mentioned above, Ladbrokes’ ads featured four of the most renowned tennis players. They had all appeared in a Grand Slam final in 2022. That is why the UK advertising regulator considered all four of them players who had a high profile in tennis and were likely to be of strong appeal to children. For those reasons, the Advertising Standards Authority concluded that the four Ladbrokes ads were irresponsible and therefore breached the CAP Code rules 16.1, 16.3, and 16.3.12 regarding gambling.
Apart from warning Ladbrokes it should make sure it no longer includes people or characters who may be of strong appeal to under-18s, the ASA also said that the gambling company’s ads must no longer appear in their current form.
Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.