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CAP and BCAP issue gambling advertising guidance

Published on 05 July 2019

What must you do in order to ensure a gambling ad is not aimed towards children?

The background

Between 2016 and 2018 the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) carried out a review of gambling policy, raising two important issues: (1) what is the impact of gambling advertising on problem gambling; and (2) what is the impact on children and young people?

In response to the DCMS’ review, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the ASA issued a joint letter detailing ongoing enforcement and policy work. This letter also committed CAP, BCAP and the ASA to develop new guidance on the interpretation of the relevant rules.

CAP and BCAP have now published updated gambling advertising guidance in an effort to address the potential risks to children and young people posed by irresponsible gambling advertising. The new guidance took effect on 1 April 2019 and underlines the protections provided by the Advertising Codes; specifically, under-18s must not be addressed by gambling advertising or targeted through media placement or ad content, and ads intended for adults must not contain content of particular appeal to under-18s. 

The development

CAP and BCAP’s new guidance highlights how the relevant rules should be interpreted in respect of gambling advertising and children.

Rule 16.3.13 of the CAP Code prevents marketing communications being directed at those aged below 18 “through the selection of media or context in which they appear”. The new guidance states that marketers must ensure they take “all reasonable steps” to use the data available to include or exclude individuals based on their age or other criteria. Under-18s, or those individuals whose online behaviour suggests they are under 18, should not be targeted directly with gambling advertising. The guidance also states that where social or online games feature marketing communications for gambling games, these should not be directed at under‑18s.

The guidance also highlights that marketers need to take “particular care” if engaging influencers to promote gambling products or brands; the influencer’s likely appeal and audience data should be assessed to ensure under-18s do not make up over 25% of the audience.

The new guidance also prohibits gambling ads likely being of “particular appeal” to under-18s. Such “particular appeal” is determined by assessing whether the content appeals more to under-18s than to those over 18. The guidance provides an extensive list of particular examples of characters which may of particular interest in determining “particular appeal”, including, amongst others, superheroes, exaggerated animated characters, children’s cartoons and fairy-tale characters. The guidance highlights that marketers should also exercise caution in relation to the overall theme and imagery of an advert; if such themes and imagery is likely to be of appeal to under-18s, it is more likely that it will ring alarm bells with the ASA. The guidance also explains that prohibitions on ads appealing to children extend to the names of online games; marketers should avoid using names involving specific characters or general tropes which are familiar to children or often directed at children.

The guidance also warns against the use of “youth culture” in ads. This can extend to themes or content associated with youths, including music, video games, fashion, language and other cultural references. This is a very wide term, and marketers should be wary of using any imagery or themes which could be considered as part of “youth culture”. 

Why is this important?

From 1 April 2019, the ASA will have regard to the requirements of the new CAP and BCAP guidance in respect of the gambling portions of the UK Advertising Codes. This means that marketers involved in producing gambling ads must take heed of the new requirements, and ensure that ads are not targeted towards under-18s in any way. This involves reviewing available data and investigating target audiences of influencers etc. in order to ensure gambling ads are responsibly targeted.

Any practical tips?

If you are considering launching a marketing ad which could potentially be considered as targeted towards under-18s or using imagery or themes which are of particular appeal to under-18s, consider whether it may breach the new requirements. The ASA will expect to see that you have done the appropriate research into the target audience of the ad, and for you to be able to show that it is not of particular appeal to under-18s. If this cannot be done, the ad will need to be reconsidered.

Remember also that the ASA is now actively deploying avatars to mimic child-like behaviour in order to keep a watch on gambling ads making their way through to children audiences. This underlines the need for gambling brands (and indeed all others speaking in regulated markets, like alcohol) to take extreme care with the flavour of their advertising and its targeting. As the ASA says, it will expect to see “robust evidence that [marketers] have been diligent in forecasting the likely audience for a marketing campaign”.

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