UK ad watchdog reverses ban on Ladbrokes’ Iron Man promo


advertising-standards-authority-ladbrokes-virgin-vampireUK bookmakers Ladbrokes have somehow convinced the country’s advertising watchdog that they goofed by banning an Iron Man-themed promo last year.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued a ruling overturning its August 24, 2016 ruling that upheld a complaint about a Ladbrokes email to customers in May of that year. The email featured an image of Marvel comics’ Iron Man character and a welcome offer of free spins at Lads’ casino site.

The ASA originally found that Ladbrokes has breached the CAP Code requirement that gambling ads not be designed to be of particular appeal to kids, especially by incorporating popular youth culture themes.

Ladbrokes protested that Facebook demographics indicated that just 6.4% of the Marvel brand’s fan base was under 18 years of age. Furthermore, Lads’ promo was sent only to registered customers or consumers who’d been validated as having achieved the age of majority.

Last August, the ASA rejected these arguments, noting that Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old, meaning a vast number of under-13s weren’t counted as Marvel fans. Somewhere along the way, the ASA appeared to forget that Lads’ promo had gone out via email, not over the social network.

Sanity having since returned to the ASA offices, the watchdog now says it realizes Lads’ targeted email approach meant that it was “extremely unlikely that anybody under 18 years of age would see the ad.”

In a separate ruling, the ASA neglected to spank GamesysVirgin Games online casino brand for a vampire-themed TV commercial that aired this winter. The ad (viewable below) featured a “bored vampire” named Vladimir who found life tedious until he “discovered the thrill of Virgin games,” which made him “feel so alive.”

The ASA received four complaints, which claimed the ad was socially irresponsible for (a) suggesting gambling made life more thrilling, (b) encouraging skint people to gamble and (c) portraying gambling as a light-hearted way to pass the time while bored.

Virgin countered by noting that Vlad showed no signs of depression and his general monotone delivery was only slightly more upbeat while playing online, which suggested the activity wasn’t “irresponsibly thrilling.”

Virgin also argued that Vlad’s statement that he’d learned to “live a little” after playing online meant he was gambling responsibly. Vlad’s physical environment didn’t undergo any improvements following his decision to gamble online, so there was no suggestion that gambling online could transform one’s financial situation.

The AGA sided with Virgin on all three complaints, including the rather obvious conclusion that “one of the reasons consumers might gamble online was to pass some time whilst they were bored,” and that depicting this was fine so long as it didn’t encourage reckless gambling behavior.