Ladbrokes penalised by ASA for socially irresponsible advertising

Ladbrokes has been sanctioned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a complaint regarding an on-demand video advertisement.

Released on 25 October 2020, the video, set in a café, depicted various customers using the Ladbrokes app on their phones. Footage of a horse race is then shown, while a voice over states ‘come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves,’ while a man’s leg is shown shaking.

The complaint argued that the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.

Ladbrokes has responded by stating it:  “Did not believe the ad depicted socially irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling.”

The bookmaker has been supported by both Clearcast and Channel 4, with the former – which is responsible of cleaning ads for broadcast on British commercial television – arguing that the individual in the ad was not detached from his surroundings but was focused on watching the face on television, and was not shown to be harmfully obsessed with his wager. 

Channel 4 added that it too did not believe the segment could cause financial, social or emotional harm and disagreed with the complaint that it was socially irresistible, highlighting a number of approaches that would have been problematic had they had been taken by the creators of the ad.

Ladbrokes – a subsidiary of Entain plc – has further argued that the man featured in the ad was simply getting nervous ahead of starter’s orders, and that showing nerves prior to s sporting event is common among spectators.

The operator has added that many people enjoy betting safely every week, and the ad intended to portray the app as fun and entertaining, and portray the enjoyment many get out of wagering on sports and racing.

In response, the ASA explained: “We disagreed with Clearcast’s view that the man was never disconnected from his companion, or from the room, and considered viewers would assume from his behaviour that he was preoccupied with the outcome of the race in relation to a bet he had placed. We also considered that the man was obviously detached from his surroundings as he watched.”

The ASA noted in its assessment that the CAP Code states that advertising must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to any personal, social, emotions or financial harm.

Ladbrokes has been informed that its future advertising does not depict socially irresponsible betting behaviour, such as detachment from surroundings and an obsession with the activity.

Gambling advertising has come under increasing scrutiny as the UK Gambling Commission continues with its review of the 2005 Gambling Act, with a ban on betting operator football shirt sponsorships a likely outcome.

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