ASA declines to uphold complaint that a Ladbrokes ad was of particular appeal to under-18s

The Advertising Standards Authority has, very sensibly in our view, declined to uphold a complaint that reference to the mid-1980s film “The Goonies” within a paid-for Facebook post for Ladbrokes was likely to be of particular appeal to those under 18 years of age and therefore breached the CAP Code.

Responding to the complaint, LC International Ltd t/a ‘Ladbrokes’ said that the ad had been through their internal review process, but had subsequently been removed from Facebook, associated ad campaigns, and their ad catalogue in response to the complaint. They highlighted that the ad did not contain any imagery or characters from “The Goonies”. They added that:

  • the film had been released in 1985 and was not a current or recent film that would be well known to children in 2021,
  • the post had been targeted at males and females aged 18 years old and over and
  • existing customers and self-excluded users had been excluded from the post’s targeting.

In its decision declining to uphold the complaint (that you can download below) the ASA said:

The CAP Code stated that gambling ads must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more strongly to under-18s than they did to over-18s. The ASA understood that the ad was not seen in an age-gated environment and outside of that environment Ladbrokes had taken steps to target the ad only at those aged 18 years of age and over. However, we understood that targeting of the ad was based on an audience which had self-reported their age and where there were otherwise no prohibitions on under-18s. Therefore, the steps taken could not ensure that under-18s, who falsely reported their age, were not exposed to the ad. We therefore considered whether it complied with the Code’s requirement that gambling ads must not be of particular appeal to children.

We understood that when it was initially released in 1985, “The Goonies” – which involved a pirate-themed treasure hunt, and featured a cast predominantly comprised of children – had been directed at, and would have particularly appealed to, audiences under the age of 18. We understood that since its release the film had become available on streaming services, but had not seen widespread re-release in cinemas. We also understood that the film had gained cult status, particularly among adults who were children when the film was originally released. We considered that because of that, it was not a recent or current film with which children were likely to be familiar. Nonetheless, we considered the content of the film was likely to have some appeal for them. However, given its popularity among adults, we did not consider that it was likely to appeal more to under-18s than over-18s.

We noted that while the ad featured “The Goonies” logo and typeface, it did not feature any characters or other imagery from the film. We considered that the nautical map and golden doubloons featured in the ad were not colourful, cartoonish, or otherwise presented in a way that was likely to resonate with children, and were more likely to have general or adult appeal. We therefore concluded that the ad was not of particular appeal to under-18s and had not breached the Code.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.12 (Gambling) but did not find it in breach.