Gambling advertisements have become the norm in the overall sports industry. Especially in football/soccer, they are hard to ignore. Unfortunately for companies like Ladbrokes, that also means every action will be scrutinized and may sometimes result in advertisements getting banned.
Ladbrokes Ad Gets Pulled
The Ladbrokes outfit is a well-respected entity in the gambling industry. They have a strong presence in the United Kingdom and abroad. Moreover, they often use advertising material that seems less obnoxious than other brands. However, they, too, can run afoul in their promotional activity. New rules issued by the UK Advertising Stands Authority prohibit companies from pushing ads that “appeal strongly to children”. A healthy measure but one that is tricky to navigate.
For Ladbrokes, their Tweet involving various Premier League footballers is a concern. While the video showed some top players like Coutinho, Koulibaly, and Lingard, it was also deemed inappropriate. More specifically, according to the ASA, its “appeal to children” is too great. Any gambling ad appealing to children can be banned immediately, regardless of its intended target audience.
As the ASA’s new rules are very strict, Ladbrokes saw its ad banned permanently. There is much tighter control over celebrities appearing in ads and how they affect the marketing message. Premier League footballers are not permitted to feature in any gambling ads unless the audience consists of only 18+ members. Unfortunately, that is impossible to guarantee.
Despite the best efforts by Ladbrokes to comply with the rules, the ASA refuted any complaints. Using targeting and age-gating tools is a solid effort but seemingly insufficient. Requiring users on Twitter to verify their age is impossible, even if Tweets are only intended for mature audiences. Twitter’s statistics confirm no one under the age of 20 saw the ad, although there are always doubts regarding such figures.
An Interesting Precedent?
Banning the Ladbrokes advertisement sent a shockwave through the gambling industry. It also confirms the ASA is watching every move like a hawk and will intervene wherever necessary. In a statement, the agency clarified that Twitter’s age-verification process is insufficient to bar access to such gambling ads. A spokesperson added:
“We considered that it would have been acceptable for the ad to appear in a medium where under-18s could be entirely excluded from the audience for all intents and purposes. That would apply in circumstances where those who saw the ad had been robustly age-verified as being 18 or older, such as through marketing lists that had been validated by payment data or credit checking.”
As such, any gambling provider in the UK advertising on Twitter may see similar results. Twitter must step up its age verification game rather than letting users manually enter this data. Anyone can claim they are 32 while their actual age is 14. It is a very delicate process that will continue to affect the gambling ad industry for years to come.