ASA rules against Gala Bingo and BeGambleAware.org

The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has published rulings against bingo operator Gala Bingo, the Health Lottery, and responsible gambling charity BeGambleAware.org. The latter highlights the fact that, whilst the ASA may pay particularly close attention to gambling operators, even those that seek to raise awareness about gambling-related harm, are still subject to the same advertising standards.

ASA ruling against Gala Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd

The voiceover in a television advert for Gala Bingo stated “Who’s the chaser today? Beat the chaser for a chance to win £5000 in our weekly final chase games and a chance to play along with the chaser at an exclusive quiz night. Bingo! Play happy at galabingo.com.” The ad included on-screen small print text at the bottom which stated “18+ UK residents only, promo runs till 25.02.17. Qualifying games Mon-Fri. Min tickets 5p-20p. 6 free tickets given for Sat £5k game if player beats chaser + wins prize in The Chase feature round during qualifying week. Sat game played 10pm and ticket holders entered in draw to win 1 night to London or Manchester. Terms at www.galabingo.com/chase-bingo”. A complaint was raised that the on-screen text was too small and as a result not legible.

Despite the fact that the text exceeded the height and duration requirements for onscreen text set out in BCAP’s guidance ‘On-screen text and subtitling in television adverts’, and that Clearcast confirmed that they believed the text was clear and distinct and complied with the BCAP Guidance, the ASA upheld the complaint. The ASA found that the width of the text was compressed such that the words appeared tall but narrow. In addition to this, the background consisted of rapidly moving images and light and colour changes that drew attention away from the small text at the bottom of the screen.

The resulting impression was that the on-screen text was not clearly legible and comprehensible and that consumers were therefore likely to miss the information contained in the on-screen text. The ASA found that this information was material, and therefore that the ad was in breach of BCAP code rules 3.1 and 3.2, which require that adverts must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. Interestingly, the fact that Gala had complied with BCAP’s guidance was not of assistance here, which serves as a reminder that advertisers should also take account of the overall impression that adverts give and whether this risks a breach of the more general advertising rules, as well as the more granular requirements.

The full ruling can be found here.

ASA ruling against Health Lottery ELM Ltd

A television advert for the Health Lottery featured various winning customers, one of whom claimed “I would encourage anyone to go out and buy a Health Lottery ticket. You’ve a very good chance of winning…”. The ASA received twelve complaints about the advert, all challenging whether this claim misleadingly exaggerated the chances of winning the lottery.

The ASA ruled against the Health Lottery. They considered that the statement from the customer was likely to be interpreted as factual and to mean that customers were more likely than not to win a prize when participating in the lottery. They acknowledged that the statement was a genuine, unprompted testimonial – made by a real winner on the basis of his experience – but dismissed the Health Lottery’s claim that the comment “a very good chance” was subjective and open to interpretation.

The ASA found that because this claim was not supported by documentary evidence it was in breach of rule 3.9 of the BCAP Code, which provides that broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation, and rule 3.45, which provides that testimonials or endorsements used in advertising must be genuine, unless they are obviously fictitious, and be supported by documentary evidence. Consequently they also found that the advert was in breach of BCAP Code rule 3.1 (adverts must not materially mislead or be likely to do so) and rule 3.12 (adverts must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service).

The full ruling can be found here.

ASA ruling against the Responsible Gambling Trust t/a BeGambleAware.org

A cinema ad for Responsible Gambling Trust, played prior to the showing of 18-certified ‘Trainspotting 2’, showed a young woman sitting on her bed while an older man sat on a desk in the corner of the room. The older man made various comments in a sinister and menacing way about the feeling the girl had whilst gambling: “It’s just a bit of fun. Remember that rush. The best feeling you’ve ever had…You tingled, you tingled. Your whole body was tingling. Don’t tell me you don’t remember that, you remember that, you remember every second of that…You are a great winner…You and me let’s go, let’s do it again, let’s do it again. You love it there, I love it there; you always win there. You’re a winner there...” After the monologue, the girl went over to the desk where the man had disappeared and a laptop was revealed in his place. On the screen a bingo game was shown and she appeared to sign in and play. Large text then stated “BeGambleAware.org”.

A complaint was raised that the male character could be interpreted as predatory and sexually abusive, and that the ad was therefore likely to cause offence and distress.

The ASA considered that until the reveal in the final moments of the ad, viewers were unlikely to understand what the ad was promoting. Whilst they considered that, after this, most viewers would understand that the male character was a metaphor, and acknowledged the fact that the ad was only shown before an 18 certificated film, they found that, because of the lack of context, the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. It was therefore in breach of BCAP Code rules 4.1 and 4.2, which require that marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence or fear and distress without justifiable reasons.

Whilst gambling operators are regularly ruled against by the ASA, this case is somewhat of a rarity as it is against a responsible gambling charity. The fact that the ad itself had a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate of PG, the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) approved the ad on the condition of it being restricted to screening with 12A films, and it was consequently deliberately only targeted at over 18s, did not persuade the ASA otherwise.

The full ruling can be found here.