The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled against three gambling operators’ adverts following complaints that the ads were not appropriately targeted.
The companies affected by the regulatory body’s decision affects LottoGo EuroMillions, Betfair Bingo, William Hill Vegas and Dunder. All of them would have to remove the adverts and never release them in the same form again, after being found guilty of breaching CAP Code rules 16.1 and 16.3.13 related to gambling.
As said in the customer complaints filed with the ASA, ads for all four operators were seen in February 2019 in the “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem”, an application which provides players with the chance to earn virtual gems and use them in the game by viewing adverts or performing tasks. According to the complaints, all ads, which were placed in association with affiliate Tapjoy Inc, were not appropriately targeted.
LottoGo, Dunde, Betfair and William Hill Respond to the Complaints
Annexio Ltd, trading as LottoGo EuroMillions, and MT SecureTrade Ltd, trading as Dunde gambling app, both explained that the adverts had been placed by an affiliate of theirs, Tapjoy Inc, and noted that the relationships with their affiliates were subject to strict control. Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, all affiliates had to confirm that any advertising published by them would be run on applications which were on a gambling whitelist and were only targeting adults.
Also, both LottoGo EuroMillions and Dunde had suspended all advertising with Tapjoy and had also terminated their relationship with the affiliate as soon they got a notion about the ad’s appearance in the “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem”.
PPB Entertainment Ltd, trading as Betfair, explained that they were obliged to prevent individuals under the age of 18 from betting on their website and further shared that a special verification process was in use when setting up an account. The company also added that the ad was not a pop-up one, so to have access to the Tapjoy Store where the advert appeared, customers had to actively click away from the game. Also, Betfair explained that the ad which promoted an offer for Betfair Bingo was only available to new adult customers.
The fourth company, WHG International Ltd, trading as William Hill, confirmed that on first inspection, the controversial advert did not appear to be in line with the ASA’s advertising rules. However, the gambling operator shared that after further investigation and discussion with Tapjoy Inc, they found that there were actually some restrictions aimed at preventing persons under the age of 18 from being targeted by the ad.
Tapjoy Says Application Was Inappropriately Categorized with Mature Gambling Setting by Developers
The affiliate of the four gambling companies that appeared to have placed the ad, Tapjoy, did not agree with the accusations of the complainants, saying that it had worked in collaboration with developers and publishers of so-called free-to-play applications before uploading the ads.
As explained by Tapjoy, one of the services offered by the above-mentioned developers and publishers was in-app rewarded advertising, which basically means that customers of the application could receive virtual currency rewards within the app in return to viewing certain offers within the app. The ad offer reviewed by the ASA was presented as part of the offering within the application.
As the gambling operators’ affiliate also explained, ads could only be displayed in applications with matching maturity settings, which were chosen by the application developer. According to Tapjoy, the “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem” was inappropriately categorized with a setting for mature gambling, which is why the advert had eventually appeared within it. The error was immediately corrected by the company as soon as it was informed about the issue.
Moreover, Tapjoy reminded that the “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem” used characters and entertainment properties which dated back to the 1930s-40s, and some adults wrongfully associated the app’s characters with their childhood.
ASA Says Ads Breach CAP Code Rules and Must Be Removed
The Advertising Standards Authority investigated on the filed complaints and found that that the adverts of the four gambling operators published by their affiliate Tapjoy were breaching CAP Code rules 16.1 and 16.3.13, regarding gambling.
Under the provisions of the existing CAP Code, marketing communications for gambling must not be directed to individuals who are not at least 18 years old. This is why the ASA considered that marketers should be able to prove that they had taken reasonable steps to make sure that gambling adverts were only directed at mature audience in order to minimise the possible harm that could be inflicted on underage individuals.
As the UK advertising regulatory body explained, the adverts for the four gambling companies which appeared in the “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem” application had a rating of PEGI 7 in the UK Google Play app store, which meant it was suitable for players who were at least 7 years old. The investigation found out that the characters used in the ads were well-known to older players, and the ads themselves had been labelled with a mature-gambling setting, which makes them appropriate to appear in applications which specifically target adults.
According to the regulator, the adverts’ content could be found appealing to individuals under 18 years of age, and their audience was likely to include underage individuals. Therefore, the ASA found that the ads breached CAP Code rules and ruled that they must not be used again without specific measures to minimise the chance to be found attractive by under-18s.