Writing for the EGBA, Guy Parker, chief exec of the Advertising Standards Authority explains the polarising challenge of ensuring messaging is both effective and responsible.
Gambling. It’s an emotive subject and one that can polarise opinion. For some it may conjure up images of a sophisticated, suave and glamorous pursuit that takes place in a world of social high flyers; where huge sums are won and lost without consequence. For many, it is seen as a mainstream leisure activity, a bit of harmless fun that brings pleasure and excitement and that is enjoyed responsibly by the vast majority. For a small number of people however, gambling represents a social ill; a harmful addiction that can ruin lives.
Since September 2007, betting and gaming companies have been permitted to advertise across all media, posing new challenges for us, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and our rule-writing sister body, The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP).
The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent advertising regulator, responsible for ensuring that ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful. Our effective and proportionate advertising regulation strikes a balance between the crucial protection of consumers, including children and the vulnerable, while allowing companies the commercial freedom to advertise their products responsibly.
Following the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005, strict content rules were introduced to ensure that gambling products are advertised in a socially responsible way across all media. We reviewed the enforcement of those rules in 2014.
Last year complaints about the gambling sector made up around 6% percent of the total complaints received by the ASA. Following these complaints, we investigated 595 ads. 62 ads were either withdrawn or amended as a result of our work, showing that although the majority were compliant with our rules, we took action to stop those ads that broke them.
As technology evolves, consumers are accessing gambling products in new and different ways such as online and via mobile devices; it’s more important than ever for us to ensure that consumers continue to be properly protected. That’s why we are committed to continuing our work with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Gambling Commission on misleading gambling promotions and our joint enforcement work with the Gambling Commission addressing the issues arising from operators using affiliates to market products.
In the next year we will also be publishing new guidance for industry to help them get their ads right in the first place.
This guidance will address marketers placing age-restricted ads on social media, and help them ensure they are using the sophisticated targeting tools available to reduce children’s exposure to age-restricted ads. It will also make clear how operators can guarantee they don’t place ads for age-restricted products, such as gambling, in children or young people’s media or in media where they make up a significant proportion of the audience.