HomeInsightsCommittee of Advertising Practice (CAP) publishes guidance on adverts featuring images likely to appeal to children

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Following publication of the letter that CAP sent jointly with the Gambling Commission to online operators about avoiding images likely to appeal to under-18s in their adverts, CAP has now published a guidance note on the subject on its website.

CAP explains that, since 2007, gambling ads that have particular appeal to children and/or young people (under-18s) have been likely to break the CAP Code, particularly if they are generally available to view by them, i.e. they are “freely accessible”.

CAP reminds readers that the CAP Code applies to advertising in a wide range of media, including on a company’s own website or in other non-paid-for space online under their control where the content is directly connected with the supply of goods, services, opportunities or gifts.

Therefore, in addition to things like paid-for ads in third party space and e-mail/direct marketing, images and text on a gambling operator’s own website (or social media) that are “directly connected” to their gambling products or other services will be considered “ads” by the ASA.  According to CAP, this includes game thumbnails, screenshots and logos as well as the names and descriptions of games.

The actual gambling products/games themselves are unlikely, in the vast majority of cases, to fall within the scope of the CAP Code because they are products, the guidance explains.  However, there may be some elements or indeed ads for other products within these games that will be covered by the Code.

Ads are “freely accessible”, CAP explains, if they can be viewed by an audience that does not effectively exclude under-18s via a sufficiently robust age verification method.  On a marketer’s own website, this means that if someone can view the advertising content without having to log in and verify their identity, it is likely to be considered “freely accessible”.

CAP explains that simply ticking a box stating you are 18+ is unlikely to be considered sufficient to exclude under-18s from the audience.  Therefore, where this method is used to restrict the audience, the ads are likely to still be considered “freely accessible”.

Content that is likely to appeal more strongly to under-18s than to those aged 18 and over has particular appeal to children and/or young persons.  If the content is likely to appeal to both under-18s and adults equally, or more so to adults, then it is unlikely to be considered problematic.

Marketers therefore need to take care with the imagery and wording used in their ads for gambling products or games.  Colourful and exaggerated cartoon-style graphics are likely to be considered to have particular appeal to under-18s, as are cartoon animals.  Characters from, or similar to those from, children’s TV, films, nursery rhymes and fairy tales are similarly at risk of being particularly appealing to children.

If the ad is “freely accessible” and the content is of particular appeal to children or young persons, that ad will break the rules, CAP says.  CAP advises that marketers review all of their “freely accessible” ads for gambling products or games, including “play-for-free” games, paying particular attention to the images displayed on their websites or social media, and in third party media.  This includes content created by affiliates because this is equally covered by the CAP Code and gambling operators are held, at least jointly, responsible for the content created by their affiliates.  To read the guidance note in full, click here.