ASA monitoring sweep marks gambling as the worst underage advertising offender

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has this morning published the findings of its ‘online monitoring sweep’ identifying age-restricted adverts that have been published within children’s digital media. 

This story featured in today’s SBC News 90. To view the latest round-up, watch today’s edition here.

ASA’s ‘monitoring sweep’ forms part of a year-long project in which the advertising authority seeks to expand its resources in screening and identifying online advertising related to age restricted products. These include gambling, alcohol, e-cigarettes and tobacco, slimming and weight loss products. 

UK advertisers placing age-restricted ads online are required, under the Advertising Code, to target their ads away from child audiences.

Further project objectives see ASA monitor adverts of junk food and soft drinks classified as high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products) targeting younger audiences.

Tracking a three-month period, ASA’s monitoring tools captured ads served on a sample of 50 websites and YouTube channels popular with a ‘disproportionately high child audience’.

Overall, 159 adverts breached ASA rules on age-restriction, with 35 advertisers placing non-compliant adverts across 34 websites and five YouTube channels – media aimed at or attracting a disproportionately large child audience.

A breakdown of gambling content saw 70 different betting ads from four gambling operators appear across eight websites – gambling advertising breaches featured higher than alcohol (10 adverts) and tobacco (one e-cigarette advert).

HFSS was found to have the highest non-compliant category with 78 different HFSS ads from 29 advertisers appearing on 24 websites and five YouTube channels

ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said: “The ASA is using technology to proactively monitor online ads to help build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children.”

“We expect advertisers and the parties they contract with to use the sophisticated tools available to them to target their ads responsibly. This is just one part of a wider set of initiatives we’re undertaking to ensure children are protected online and we’ll report on our further work in this area in the coming months.” 

ASA concluded its report stating that it has contacted advertisers that have breached its advertising code. Moving forward the authority will run its monitoring sweep as a ‘quarterly exercise over the next 12 months’.

Announcing the industry’s new ‘Action Plan’ in May, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) underlined industry leaderships commitment to improving advertising safeguards.  

Marked as a key objective, the BGC stated that it has formed an industry working group to collaborate with advertising bodies and media partners in developing new adtech solutions to prevent underage audiences from viewing with online gambling adverts.

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