January 7, 2022
The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) recently investigated two video advertisements published on a YouTube channel belonging to Callum Airey (better known online as “Calfreezy”), relating to 888 UK Ltd’s (“888”) 888poker app (the “App”), and determined that the advertisements for the App (1) were not directed at those aged below 18 years; and (2) did not have a particular appeal to children or young people.
888 had paid Calfreezy for two YouTube videos which 888 had editorial control over:
- The first video showed Calfreezy describing 888’s jackpot poker game, which could be accessed via the App. Following Calfreezy’s description of the poker game in which he explained that it was “a game of speed, fun and suspense and you could win really big”, Calfreezy was shown pretending to be a taxi driver, driving YouTube influencers in a taxi around London (“Ad A”); and
- The second video, which advertised a game of poker which could be played on the App, featured Calfreezy and his friends playing poker via the App. In the video, Calfreezy explained that “You can actually go ahead and play with your friends. Not only that but you can play across multiple tables as well. And not only that but you can actually chuck stuff at your mates across the table.” The video then showed a tomato being thrown at a phone screen with the game being played on it (“Ad B”),
The ASA assessed whether the Ads for the App:
- were directed at those aged below 18 years (“Issue 1”); and
- had a particular appeal to children (“Issue 2”).
Representations made by 888 and Calfreezy
888 explained that at least 75% of Calfreezy’s 3.82 million followers were over 18 years. Further, Calfreezy stated that in respect of Ads, his company was paid to promote the App and 888 had editorial control over the content of the Ads (which, in respect of Ad A only, applied for the first 90 seconds with the remainder of the video being editorial content).
In addition, Calfreezy provided YouTube analytics showing audience numbers broken down by age showing that 7.5% of those who had viewed Ad A were under 18 and 6% of those who viewed Ad B were under 18.
888 stated that Calfreezy was over 25 years old and that Responsible Gambling and 18+ logos featured on both Ads including an 18+ verbal disclaimer. In addition, Calfreezy asserted that his viewing figures demonstrated that his YouTube channel did not have particular appeal to younger children.
The ASA did not find a breach of the CAP Code by 888 in respect of the Ads.
Assessment of Issue 1
In its assessment of Issue 1, the ASA referred to the CAP Code which states that gambling advertisements must not be directed at those aged below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appeared.
Noting the viewing demographics supplied by Calfreezy from YouTube, in respect of Ads A and B, 7.5% and 6% of the audience respectively, had been under 18 years. In addition, the overall viewing figures for Calfreezy’s channel showed 8.6% of the audience were under 18 years.
The ASA referred to their commonly understood threshold for a breach of the targeting children prohibition: that, where paid-organic content is published by third party users on a platform on behalf of a marketer, the ASA requires that the marketer demonstrate that under 18s are not likely to comprise 25% of the audience (the “Threshold”). Given the demographics provided by Calfreezy from YouTube demonstrated that the Threshold had not been breached, the ASA considered that the Ads were not directed at under 18s through the selection of media and therefore did not breach the CAP Code.
Assessment of Issue 2
Under the CAP Code, gambling advertisements must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.
In its review of Ad A, the ASA noted that the App was “depicted enthusiastically and in a stylised manner”. Notwithstanding that, the ASA did not find that there was any imagery or wording that was obviously linked to youth culture. The ASA then assessed whether Calfreezy picking up other YouTube personalities in a taxi and pretending to be a taxi driver would have a particular appeal to children. It was ultimately concluded that it would not have such an appeal.
In its review of Ad B, the ASA came to the same conclusion i.e. that it did not have a particular appeal to children or young people, despite the ASA acknowledging that the graphic throwing of a tomato onto a phone showing the poker game being played could have some potential to appeal to younger people. However, the ASA considered that this particular section of the video was brief and there was no other imagery or wording linked to youth culture in the video.
Regarding Issue 1, we have seen a clear application of the Threshold and the reliance the ASA places on demographic data. This is a timely reminder to betting operators and agencies preparing campaigns for gambling ads, that gathering audience data for YouTube channels and other publishers is essential. Although not discussed in the ASA’s findings, it is worth considering the representations made by Calfreezy; that there was no editorial control by the YouTuber over the ad. Whilst it’s understandable the YouTuber would want to make this point, had the ASA upheld the complaint because the ad had breached the Threshold, it’s likely that Calfreezy would have been held jointly responsible for this particular breach along with 888 – this is therefore not only a timely reminder to operators but to influencers as well.
The sensible conclusion reached in relation to Issue 2, where there is a feature of the ad which could appeal to younger people (such as the throwing of a tomato in Ad B), if that feature is brief in its duration and is not combined with any other words or images that was obviously linked to youth culture, it is unlikely to appeal to children, which is great to see. However, we would urge marketers and agencies not to rest on their laurels with this one as we are all too aware of the current consultation to strengthen this part of the CAP Code and the proposal to tighten the ‘appeal to children’ rule – whether the same conclusion would be reached under any new rules is something we will have to wait to see.
A link to the ruling can be accessed here.