The UK division of 888 Holdings avoided sanctions from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the British advertising regulator decided not to uphold two issues raised in association with targeting underage individuals and encouraging them to gamble.
Two individuals filed complaints against 2 videos – called “I Was Youtubers TAXI driver for 24 hours” and “$10,000 YOUTUBER POKER CHALLENGE”, respectively – uploaded on Callum Airey’s YouTube channel, which currently has a large audience of young people. The complainants challenged whether the ads for a 888 UK gambling application, which were seen in August 2021, were targeting children below 18 years of age and whether these ads could have been found particularly appealing to children.
The gambling company responded to the complaints.
888 UK Says Neither One of the Ads Were Targeting Children
The gambling operator explained that 888 UK had paid Mr Airey to upload the two videos on his YouTube channel and they had editorial control. The company further noted that while the first video was not initially labelled as an advert, it had been amended after being uploaded and was now accurately described. In addition, 888 UK explained that no less than 75% of Mr Airey’s followers were people over the age of 18, so the two ads were not aimed at attracting children.
Furthermore, 888 UK highlighted the fact that Mr Airey himself was over the age of 25. The company also noted that both videos featured Responsible Gambling and 18+ logos, as well as an 18+ verbal disclaimer to warn viewers that the content was aimed at adult audiences. That is why the gambling operator believed adequate steps had been taken to make sure that children would not find the two ads appealing.
Callum Airey also confirmed that in both cases his company was paid by the gambling operator to promote its 888poker mobile app, with the gambling company having editorial control over the video’s content. Furthermore, he explained to the country’s advertising regulatory body that underage viewers do not account for a large proportion of his YouTube channel. Mr Airey also provided the regulator with 3 screenshots from his YouTube analytics to demonstrate how his audience was broken down by age. The first screenshot was for the first advert and showed 7.5% of the audience had consisted of individuals under the age of 18. The second screenshot was associated with the second advert and showed that 6% of the channel’s audience had been under the age of 18, while the third screenshot provided overall viewing figures for Mr Airey’s YouTube channel, showing that 8.6% of the YouTuber’s audience were underage.
Callum Airey also provided analytics for his page on Instagram, showing audience numbers broken down by gender and age. The analytics data showed that 16.2% of the male subscribers and 20.8% of the female subscribers to his Instagram page were under 18, respectively.
ASA Did Not Uphold Accusations against the Two 888 UK Ads
The Advertising Standards Authority investigated the two complaints filed against 888 UK and took into account both its findings and the evidence provided by the gambling operator before eventually making a decision not to uphold any of the complaints.
On the first point, which challenged whether the two gambling app ads were directed at underage individuals, the ASA took into consideration the viewing data provided by Mr Airey from his YouTube channel. The British advertising watchdog required the marketer to provide proof that people under the age of 18 were not likely to account for 25% of the audience of paid-organic content published by a social media platform’s third-party users on behalf of the marketer. The figures tabled by the YouTuber proved that the 25% threshold had been breached neither for his channel on YouTube nor his Instagram page.
On that point the ads were investigated under CAP Code rules 16.1 and 16.3.13 regarding Gambling, but the ASA found no breach of the Code.
Apart from the rules that gambling ads must not target individuals aged below 18 years, the CAP Code requires gambling companies to make sure their ads are not likely to be found particularly appealing by children or young persons. The investigation held by the UK advertising watchdog found that the footage of the 888poker app in both ads was depicted in a stylised manner but there was no wording or imagery that was apparently linked to youth culture. The costumes in which Mr Airey and his friends were dressed while playing poker were also not linked to underage individuals, the ASA said.
On that point, the watchdog investigated the ads under CAP Code rules 16.1 and 16.3.12 regarding Gambling, but no breach of the Code was found.
As a result, 888 UK was not forced to take any further action in terms of the two ads promoting its gambling application.