In October 2022, Ladbrokes shared a promoted tweet that included a video reel of PremierLeague footballers Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard, and Kalidou Koulibaly, along with the text, "Can these big summer signings make the question marks over their performances go away?" The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) questioned if this ad violated their rules related to gambling marketing messages with a strong appeal to children, which were recently introduced.
Gambling ADS New Rules
Previously, the criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of gambling advertisements was whether they had a "particular appeal" to children, which meant that an ad's appeal to children was considered disproportionate compared to its appeal to adults. However, earlier this year, the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introduced a new code, which states that gambling advertisements may not have a "strong appeal" to children.
Under this new standard, ads attractive to many children would be prohibited, regardless of their appeal to adults. The new rules mainly impacted how celebrities featured in marketing messages due to other existing regulations on gambling advertisements. For example, guidance for the new standard indicates that Premier League footballers are generally not allowed to appear in gambling ads. However, exceptions can be made if the audience can be restricted to those over 18.
Ladbrokes official reply
Ladbrokes replied it had "carefully incorporated" the new guidance from the Committee of the ASA organization. Given that top-flight footballers were "considered to carry a high risk of having strong appeal to children", the company "made use of all available targeting and age-gating tools" to ensure that the ad would be viewed by people aged 18+. Specifically, it mentioned that Ladbroke's Twitter account was only accessible to users who had indicated their age as 18+. Additionally, since there was no "independent" age verification on Twitter, the company targeted the ad to users aged 25+. According to data from Twitter, the ad received approximately 51K impressions, and none of the targeted audience was recorded as under 20 years old.
The ASA verdict
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled in favor of the complaint against Ladbrokes, ASA wrote that the company's advertisement was unsuitable for Twitter due to the platform's flawed age verification process. The ASA explained that it would have been acceptable for the ad to appear on a medium where it could be ensured that those viewing it were over 18 through methods such as validated marketing lists or credit checks. However, the ASA determined that Twitter's self-verified age system did not meet this accuracy threshold. Therefore Ladbrokes had yet to effectively exclude under-18s from seeing the ad, which was likely to appeal to this age group.