October 1, 2018
An in-app ad for “Bell Fruit Casino”, a gambling app administered by Greentube Alderney Ltd, seen in the “Dude Perfect 2” app on 21 February 2018, featured text stating “Bell Fruit Casino App FREE. Play Slots for Real Cash. Welcome Bonus up to £200”. Buttons on screen stated “GET” and “PLAY NOW!”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad had been appropriately targeted, because it was seen by their seven-year-old son.
Under CAP Code rule 16.3.13, marketing communications for gambling must not be directed at those aged younger than 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appeared. Marketers must be able to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to comply.
The app in which the ad appeared had a rating of PEGI 3, which meant it was suitable for all ages. The game revolved around performing basketball “trick shots”. The characters were based on the “Dude Perfect” YouTube channel, which mainly featured sports based content. Although the graphic style was cartoon-like, the game did not feature child characters. The ASA acknowledged that the app would be of appeal to some under-18s, but did not consider that it would be of greater appeal to them than to an adult audience.
Miniclip SA, the publishers of Dude Perfect 2, had selected the option to disable Real Money Gaming (RMG) ads from appearing in Dude Perfect 2 at the time the ad was seen. Further, Greentube Alderney’s ads had been labelled as RMG. However, the ad had nonetheless appeared in the app and had been seen by a seven-year-old child. The ASA understood that the ad was seen on a shared device used by both adults and children, while logged into an adult’s Google account.
The ASA considered that age-restricted ads on online platforms should not be targeted solely based on age data, because of younger users misreporting their age on social media or different people sharing the same device, and that advertisers should support that method of targeting by using interest based factors to help remove those aged under 18 years of age from the target audience of gambling product ads.
The ASA understood that the Google AdWords network allowed advertisers to target a defined set of users. Therefore, the relevant test under the Code was whether the ad had been directed at people under 18, rather than the proportion of users who saw the ad who were under 18. However, the likelihood of under-18s to download the app in which the ad appeared would also be relevant in determining the extent to which interest-based or other behavioural targeting would be needed in order to ensure that the ad was not directed at under-18s.
The ASA noted that 2.5% of users who downloaded the app using their own account were aged 13 to 17. As it was common for children to access apps on shared devices, the ASA considered the actual under-18 audience was likely to be greater than that. The ASA therefore expected Greentube Alderney to have used some additional interest based factors to reduce the likelihood of under-18s seeing the ad.
Greentube Alderney had chosen to use the Universal App campaign option, which was automatically targeted by Google, but it had not used the account exclusion tools provided. Further, the ASA noted that there were other campaign options on Google AdWords that allowed advertisers to target their campaigns to users based on interest and other behavioural factors. The ASA concluded that the ad had been inappropriately targeted and breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.1(Gambling). (ASA Ruling on Greentube Alderney Ltd t/a Bell Fruit Casino (19 September 2018) — to read the Ruling in full, click here).