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Gambling ads of “particular appeal” to children

Published on 20 December 2018

How easy is it for gambling websites to stray into creating content which is of “particular appeal” to children and therefore banned under the CAP Code?

The background

The BCAP Code states at Rule 17.4.5 that advertisements for advertising must not “be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”.  Gambling ads therefore must not appeal more strongly to under-18s than they do to over 18s.

The complaints

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway is a popular family variety television show.  32Red Ltd is a gambling website which aired a TV Ad for “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway online slots game”.  The ad featured Ant McPartlin’s voice stating “Welcome to Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.  Featuring Ant versus Dec free spins and the amazing ‘Win the ads bonus feature”.  This was followed by Declan Donnelly stating “it’s time to play win the ads”.  The voiceover concluded “play online, on mobile and on tablet.  Get £10 free when you join where you’re the big deal”.  As the voiceover ended the theme music to the show played in the background. 

One complainant challenged whether or not the ad was irresponsible, because it linked gambling to Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and was therefore likely to be of particular appeal to under 18s in contravention of BCAP Rule 17.4.5.

The response

32Red responded by stating that Saturday Night Takeaway was not targeted at under 18s and that it had a wide audience profile featuring many different age demographics.  Under 18s, 32Red stated, were an under-represented portion of the population of the audience of the show.  They were able to provide BARB data (audience data) which showed that across 2017 and 2018 the BARB index for the programme was around 90 and that no single episode over this time frame had indexed over 120.  A BARB index of over 120 would indicate that a programme did have a particular appeal to under-18s.

Additionally, the appeal of Ant and Dec to under 18s had been previously considered by Clearcast in 2015, at which point an ad linked to the programme ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ (which was also presented by Ant and Dec) was reviewed and cleared by Clearcast.  It was noted that Ant and Dec were approaching middle age and presented a wide range of programming, and therefore they were not associated with youth culture.  Additionally, the careers of Ant and Dec had begun in children’s programming in the early 90’s when they were young.  Clearcast considered that while it was likely that during this time Ant and Dec would have been popular with under 18s, they have been involved in a large variety of programmes since then and have garnered a more general appeal.  Their audience from the early 90’s would have grown up with them and it was thought that the pair’s current establishment as TV comedy presenters does not have a greater appeal to under 18s. 

The decision

Throughout their assessment the ASA judged the advert using the test of whether or not the advert is likely to appeal more strongly to under 18s than over 18s due to the specific appeal of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway to under 18s. 

In their assessment the ASA placed a lot of emphasis on (i) the available BARB data; and (ii) the specific elements taken from the TV show that were featured in the ads (the voiceover from Ant and Dec, the theme tune and the reference to the ‘Win the Ads game’.)

The BARB data showed that while many under 18’s watched the show, it consistently produced an index score below 120, meaning that the TV show did not have a greater appeal to under 18’s than to the general viewing population as a whole.  The ASA considered that, notwithstanding any specific content in the ad that might appeal particularly to under 18s, references regarding the programme in the gambling ad were unlikely to breach the BCAP code.

The ASA then considered that the specific elements taken from the TV programme in the two ads – the theme tune, the voice-overs from Ant and Dec, and the reference to the ‘Win the Ads game’ were generic features of the programme, and therefore unlikely to particularly appeal to Under 18s more so than over 18s.

The complaint was not upheld. 

Why is this important?

This ruling reinforces how the ASA will assess the full context of ads that could potentially be of interest to children and the elements it will focus on when making its decisions.  Additionally, it highlights how the ASA will look into the wider context of the materials that have the potential to be appeal to an audience under the age of 18. 

Additionally, the reliance on BARB data here shows that certainty of audience is important when producing marketing communications that are heavily regulated, such as gambling.

Any practical tips?

Don’t appeal to kids when creating gambling content! Being certain of the audience data of any TV shows or characters that are associated with any gambling advertisements will be helpful in showing that you are advertising responsibly.