The Advertising Standards Authority has labelled an advert by the UK bookmaker Coral as ‘irresponsible’, pulling it from circulation. The advert was posted to the company’s Twitter page, resulting in a complaint being issued to the advertising watchdog. Ladbrokes, meanwhile, had more complaints over one of its adverts but it got the OK from the ASA.
In the case of Coral, the advert in question was one for its ‘Fail To Finish’ offer, in which people would receive their stake back as a free bet if their horse failed to finish a race. Ladbrokes, on the other hand, produced an advert in which a man was filling his car with petrol and trying to get the numbers to line up, as well as other people doing things akin to casino betting.
Why It Went To The ASA
The Advertising Standards Authority works alongside the Committee Of Advertising Practice as an independent regulatory body for the advertising industry. The CAP is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes that companies have to stick to when producing adverts for their products. The ASA then decides if a company has failed to do so.
The pair work together to offer regulation that is proportionate, fair, transparent, consistent, accountable, targeted and, most importantly of all, evidence-based. When it comes to gambling adverts, companies need to ensure that what they say is socially responsible, especially when it comes to young and vulnerable people.
Part of the problem with the Coral advert was that it broke numerous rules that are on the Advertising Standards Authority’s suggestions list for gambling companies. This includes the likes of portraying gambling as indispensable, suggesting that gambling enhances your life or portraying gambling in a context that suggests toughness.
The ‘Irresponsible’ Coral Advert
The issue for Coral involves a tweet that was sent via the company’s official Twitter account in March of 2020. The tweet had a video alongside text that read,
“We’re as passionate about the bet as you are. So, get your stake back as a free bet if your horse fails to finish. #CoralRacing 18+, T&C’s Apply”.
There was also a caption for the video that read, “Have another go”. It began with horses racing each other and superimposed text saying ‘STRONG, FAST, RELENTLESS, RIDERLESS’. A jockey is about to fall of his horse in the advert, coming prior to more text that read ‘GET A FREE BET BACK WITH FAIL TO FINISH, which was also repeated by a voiceover.
The advert then showed a man who was watching the jockey about to fall with a disappointed face. He then looked at his phone and smiled (as shown in the image here), with a VoiceOver saying, “For the passion of the bet: Coral Racing”. It was this point that the Advertising Standards Authority had the biggest issue with, believing that it suggested that the decision to bet had been ‘taken lightly’.
The ASA Understood What The Advert Was Promoting
The Advertising Standards Authority acknowledged in its written report to Coral that the advert was for the firm’s ‘Fail To Finish’ promotion, which entitles customers to a free bet token of the same value as their original stake up to a maximum of £10 if the horse they’ve bet on doesn’t finish their race. They also said that the advert didn’t encourage repeat betting.
On top of that, the ASA was quick to point out that nothing in the advert appeared to suggest that customers were obliged to take up the offer of the free bet, nor did punters need to use more funds in order to qualify for the offer of a free bet. None of those things were seen as an issue by the advertising industry’s governing body.
Rather, the problem came from the fact that the man’s mood appeared to change to a happy one when he noticed that he’d got a free bet. This, alongside the use of the phrase ‘Have another go’, led the ASA to believe that the decision to gamble appeared to ‘be taken lightly’ and therefore ran the risk of encouraging some people to ‘take up the offer repetitively’.
The Advertising Standards Authority felt as though the advert, which only received one complaint against it, would encourage gambling behaviour. It was also felt that the advert could potentially be seen as harmful, which meant that it breached the code laid out to gambling companies over the types of adverts that they’re allowed to produce and broadcast.
What Coral Said
Coral were quick to respond to the criticisms, saying that they did not believe that the Fail To Finish offer encouraged repeat or irresponsible gambling. They also reiterated the fact that nothing in the advert suggested that ‘consumers were…obliged to take up the offer’. On top of that, customers didn’t need to use additional funds for the offer.
Coral were keen to make sure that it was accepted that the add did not ‘apply undue pressure’ on a customer to place another bet. The advert was not designed to make punters think that they should bet with more money than they usually used for their normal gambling needs. All of that was understood by the ASA, but not accepted as good enough.
Why Ladbrokes Were Given The All Clear
There was only one complaint about the Coral advert, whilst five people submitted a complaint to the ASA over an advert that Ladbrokes showed on the 29th of February 2020. In spite of this, the Advertising Standards Authority felt that the Coral advert was a more serious breach of their code than the Ladbrokes one was, therefore clearing it for broadcast.
The Ladbrokes advert started with a man filling up his call with petrol, joined with a voiceover saying that ‘It’s all about getting them to line up’. The petrol pump is then shown, with the numbers having stopped at £77.77, resulting in the man saying ‘yes!’. Next was a man ordering a sandwich, saying ‘Hit me’ to receive more fillings.
The man then declared, “When the time is right, I like to double down. Hit me”, receiving another filling in his sandwich. The action then cut to a woman in a clothes shop, looking at the wares on offer. She says, “There are few things more exciting than a spinning wheel. I’m going for red, definitely red. OK black”.
This speech was joined by the visual of her spinning a circular clothes rail that only had red and black clothes on it in alternating positions. The complainants about the advert believed that it showed people taking part in gambling-style activities in their everyday lives, potentially portraying the idea that gambling takes priority over everyday activities.
Ladbrokes’ Response To Complaints
Ladbrokes responded quickly to the complaints that were levelled at the advert by five different people. They highlighted the fact that the purpose of the advert was to show that gaming could be exciting, but doing so in a ‘metaphorical way’ that they felt ‘exaggerated real life’. The analogies were not suppose to suggest that they ‘took over’ the punters’ lives.
Whilst the advert showed people engaging in something that most people will do at some point or another in their lives, whether that be when they are working or engaged in activity, it didn’t do it in a way that suggested gambling actually enhanced their lives. This is one of the key issues that the ASA has with gambling adverts, after all.
The Advertising Standards Authority essentially backed up the view of Ladbrokes. In assessing the advert, the ASA said, “The ad presented three characters engaging in everyday tasks and real-life scenarios that appeared to remind them of different online casino games: a slot machine; blackjack game; and roulette wheel”.
The went on to say, “The ASA considered that whilst the characters were depicted as momentarily reminded of gambling and engaged in that analogy of the situation, they were not so distracted that they didn’t continue with those tasks”. Arguably the key point was that it didn’t present gambling as an indispensable part of the characters’ lives.
At no point in the advert did the Advertising Standards Authority feel that gambling took a priority in the lives of the people involve. For that reason, the conclusion from the ASA was that it didn’t ‘portray, condone or encourage’ socially irresponsible gambling behaviour. It is that that is the biggest concern for the ASA and Ladbrokes succeeded where Coral failed.