October 23, 2020
The Advertising Standards Agency yesterday launched a consultation on new strengthened rules and guidance aimed at protecting under-18s and vulnerable people in the UK from potential gambling-advertising related harms. Most consultations affecting the gambling industry in the last year or two have been generally amounted to a fait accompli so one must assume the direction of travel is set in stone.
The current test in terms of the potential appeal of a gambling advert to under-18s is by reference to it having “particular appeal” (very roughly translated as more appealing to under-18s than to adults) and it is proposed that the test will become one of “strong appeal”. One might say that both standards are fundamentally subjective in nature but the illustrations given by the ASA give a strong indication as to their thinking.
Although it is now pretty well-trodden ground that child-oriented content (like animated characters and superheroes) cannot feature in gambling advertising in the UK, the new rules would extend to cover characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under-18s. Furthermore, ads would be prohibited from including a person or character who is likely to be followed by those aged under 18 years or who has a strong appeal to those aged under 18. In essence, the new restriction would effectively limit the use of prominent sports people and celebrities, and also individuals like social media influencers.
Does this mean endorsement deals are dead? They are certainly significantly hampered – consideration might still be given to how robust age-verification tools can be used to display adverts featuring people or characters with ‘strong appeal’ to existing customers. But the limitations necessitated by careful placement may well have an impact on the commerciality of such arrangements, especially if new customers are harder to reach.
The ASA is also looking to update existing guidance around the way that gambling is presented in light of social responsibility concerns, although the guidance largely seems to enshrine the approach it has previously taken to such issues when reaching its decisions in response to public complaints about specific adverts.
The ASA comments that:
“These proposals seek to strike a proportionate and effective balance between allowing gambling operators freedom to advertise to a legitimate adult audience with the need to protect under-18s’ and vulnerable adults from the potential harms that can arise from gambling advertising that is irresponsible.
You can read more on the consultation here: https://www.asa.org.uk/news/consultation-on-new-strengthened-rules-and-guidance-for-gambling-ads-to-protect-children-and-young-people.html
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