ASA introduces new advertising guidelines

The UK advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has presented new guidelines in an attempt to protect problem gamblers and prevent underage gambling.

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The ASA has introduced new advertising rules aimed at protecting problem and underage gamblers. © Pixabay.

Under new rules announced by the Advertising Standards Agency, operators will be unable to use the browsing history of consumers in targeted adverts.

The new guidelines which come into effect today also prohibit the use of animated characters or imagery which is likely to appeal to young people. The regulator has also banned the use of celebrities who are under 25 years old in advertising for gambling products or services.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) who write the guidelines have also warned that simulated gambling websites and apps should not be used to promote real-money gambling products.

The rules also state that marketing campaigns should not be directed at anyone who is under the age of 18 and this includes social networks as well as to more traditional advertising mediums such as TV and newspapers.

Even before the new guidelines came into effect, the advertising standards authority has taken action against companies they believe have exposed youngsters to gambling advertisements. One such example is ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here app which displayed an advert from the show’s sponsor Tombola. ITV was forced to remove the advertisement with the ASA stating that over a million under 18’s watching the show and could be influenced by the adverts. The action against ITV was widely welcomed by high profile campaigners such as Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson and the gambling charity GambleAware who called the decision a victory for common sense.

A number of operators fallen foul of advertising standards

Other names to have fallen foul of the regulator in recent times are Coral and William Hill. Coral had three of their interactive ads banned due to a leprechaun, a pot of gold and a bright, colourful rainbow displayed which the regulator deemed could be appealing to younger children. Whereas William Hill saw their advert came under fire when it was discovered that their adverts were shown in the new Mario Kart 8 game for the Nintendo Switch console, a game that is very popular with younger players.

William Hill in their defence said that they would never knowingly target children and the advert being shown was due to Google’s Universal App Campaign, and they had minimal control over where and to whom the adverts were displayed. Google disputed this saying the bookmaker had access to functionality that restricted the adverts to signed in users over the age of 18 but had chosen not to.

The ASA is an independent body and is not funded by the UK government but instead is financed by levies that are placed on advertisements and while the Advertising Standards Agency in itself cannot interpret or enforce legislation, its guidelines usually mirror current law. If an offender refuses to comply with the ASA, they could face being reported to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) who can prosecute under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations which were introduced in 1988.

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