The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been cracking down on the gaming industry and banning advertisements that they believe to be misleading. It seems the ASA bans a misleading advertisement from an online gaming site so frequently that one would assume by now, gaming marketing departments should know where to draw the line. But it seems online gambling sites find themselves in this situation monthly.
But when you’re trying to compete in the ultra saturated and competitive UK market, scrutinizing so many aspects of a good advertisement pitch is an arduous task, and deciphering what the ASA will determine as misleading is a task easier said than done.
Betfred is the latest gaming entity to have one of their ads banned from television for being misleading to viewers. ASA adjudications provide important guidance to advertisers on how the ASA’s advertising codes are to be interpreted. They are intended to act as a transparent record of the ASA’s policy for consumers, media, government, industry and society at large on what is and isn’t acceptable in advertising. But just is their scrutiny unreasonable?
A TV ad for Betfred featured co-founder Fred Done in which Mr Done said, “I’ll give you great odds and fantastic bonuses. Why? It’s my fun and I love it. I’ll even match your first bet up to £50. Watch my lips, a free bet up to £50, if you sign up today”. The on-screen text stated “Open online account, place £5 min bet, get free bet to same value, £50 max. T & C’s apply, selected games. Free bet stake not included in returns”.
The issue the ASA had with this ad as they described on their website, was that the complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it failed to include the condition that the first bet must have odds that are evens or greater to receive the free bet.
As shown in the adjudications, Betfred argued that the term was fairly standard in the industry and they provided evidence from other online bookmakers in support of this. Furthermore they said these other bookmakers had not included the term in recent advertising, though it was contained in their terms and conditions. They also said that customers must agree to the terms and conditions before opening an online account. They said the term was included to prevent people taking advantage of the offer by placing bets with very short odds. Thus they believed it was appropriate to include the term in the terms and conditions and make clear that terms and conditions applied in the ad.
It’s a sound argument, considering the last thing you want to do in a TV ad is confuse people or draw away from the main focus of the ad by filling it with redundant frivolous information.
The ASA acknowledged the point that the requirement for odds to be evens or greater was a common one in the industry for free/matched bet offers. But the ASA considered that the requirement for odds to be evens or greater was a significant condition likely to affect a viewer’s decision to take advantage of the offer, and should have been included in the ad. Because it was not, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading.
Considering that the Betfred marketing department designed the ad for their target audience, and audience that more than likely well familiar with the terms and conditions; is the ASA taking their watchdog duties too far on online gambling firms?