April 8, 2019
The ASA used new monitoring technology in the form of child “avatars”, i.e. online profiles that simulate children’s browsing activity, to identify ads that children see online. As a result, it took action to ban ads from five gambling operators that were served to child avatars on children’s websites in clear breach of the UK Advertising Codes.
Over a two-week monitoring period last year the ASA identified ads by 43 gambling operators in non-logged-in, online environments. Five of those gambling operators were found to have broken the advertising rules prohibiting gambling ads being targeted at under-18s.
The ASA collected data on the 10,754 times that ads were served to the child avatars across 24 children’s websites and 20 open-access YouTube channels. In total, the ASA found:
- gambling ads were served to the child avatars on 11 of the children’s websites monitored;
- 23 individual gambling ads were seen by the child avatars on those 11 children’s websites a combined total of 151 times, which was 1.40% of the total ad impressions;
- one gambling operator was responsible for ten ads and 122 of the ad impressions (81% of the 151); and
- no gambling ads were served on any of the open-access YouTube channels included in the research.
The ASA instructed the five companies to take immediate action to review their online ads, ensure they are not served to web users aged below 18 years of age through the selection of media or context in which they appear and to put in place measures to ensure this does not happen again.
The ASA says that it is now exploring whether this monitoring and enforcement approach can be extended to logged-in environments like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. To read the ASA’s press release in full, click here.