ASA rules that Ladbrokes ad depicted socially irresponsible gambling behaviour

Ladbrokes received an adverse ruling today (3 February 2021) from the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) to the effect that a VOD ad for Ladbrokes, seen on All4 on 25 October 2020, depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible. You can download that ruling (on LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes) below.

The ad showed various people using the Ladbrokes app on their mobile phones. One scene showed a clip of a horse race, before showing a man in a café with several other people, looking away from them at something else in the distance, over the shoulder of one of them. A voice-over stated, “Come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves.” The man’s leg was shaking, making the food and cutlery on the table shake. A woman said to him, “Really?”, capturing his attention briefly, before he turned away again.

Upholding a complaint that the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, and breached CAP Code rules 16.1 and 16.3.1 (Gambling), the ASA’s ruling reads as follows:.

The CAP Code stated that ads must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP’s Advertising Guidance on ‘Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling’ made clear that ads which portrayed or otherwise referred to individuals displaying problem gambling behaviours or other behavioural indicators linked to problem gambling were likely to breach the Code.

Marketers should take care to avoid an implication of such behaviours, for instance, outwardly light-hearted or humorous approaches that could be regarded as portrayals of those behaviours. Behaviours associated with people displaying or at risk from problem gambling included detachment from surroundings and preoccupation with gambling.

We noted Clearcast’s view that the ad implied the man was watching a race on television, and we agreed that based on the scene and the simultaneous voice-over referring to ‘starter’s orders’, viewers were likely to interpret the ad as showing him watching the television as the race was about to begin.

He was watching intently, and his shaking the table with his knee which, while clearly intended to be humorous, suggested he was preoccupied with the race while his food remained untouched. He was described as being a ‘bag of nerves’, which we considered viewers were likely to interpret was as a result of his having placed a bet on the race. It was clear that he was engrossed in the race to the extent that his companion had to point out his actions to bring his attention away from watching the television.

We noted that, after responding to his companion, he appeared to turn away, though the shot was brief and he was looking down. 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 told LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes to ensure future ads did not depict gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, such as detachment from surroundings and preoccupation with gambling.