On 27 February 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published a ruling involving TSE Malta LP t/a Betfair in relation to a TV ad's compliance with the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising ("BCAP Code").

The ASA did not uphold the complaint, finding that the ad was not socially irresponsible and therefore in compliance with the BCAP Code.

The Ad

The ad showed a young man checking his mobile phone and walking down the pavement before going through a "secret" door. Behind this door was a large screen broadcasting horseracing to a busy room. Accompanied by atmospheric music, a voice-over then stated: "My gut says that horse is something special and my smarts say to back it on the Betfair Exchange where I get bigger returns than if I bet with one of these other bookies. That's why I go to Betfair. Betfair, where gut instinct meets smarts."

The issue was whether the references to "smarts" in the ad focused on the feelings of excitement experienced by an aspirational figure and made the ad irresponsible through exploiting the susceptibilities of young men.

Betfair disputed whether the figure in the ad was aspirational, as he was in plain clothes with no obvious sign of wealth, or whether the ad exploited the susceptibilities of young men. Instead, it claimed the ad aimed to explain to customers that Betfair offered better value for money compared to other bookmakers. Clearcast stated that the reference to "smarts" related to the better odds offered by Betfair and the voice-over showed the figure taking a pragmatic approach through alluding to the good returns available on Betfair Exchange. Further, Clearcast stated the main character was over 25 and was portrayed as one of many unremarkable people in a location designed to be a metaphor for the "community" of customers using the app.

The Decision

The ASA found the ad did create the impression that the man was an aspirational figure through his confident demeanour and measured approach to placing a bet.

However, despite the atmospheric music around "My gut says that horse is something special" in the internal monologue, the voice-over then revealed more of the man's thought process. In particular, it went on to say that, "my smarts say to back it on the Betfair Exchange where I get bigger returns than if I bet with one of these other bookies." As such, the ASA considered the viewers would understand the man had made a measured decision about where to place his bet, rather than believing his "smarts" gave him a better chance of winning.

Despite considering the man to be an aspirational figure, the ASA found that the reference to "smarts" was clearly made in the context of a measured decision to bet on Betfair Exchange. It therefore concluded that there had been no breach of BCAP Code rules 17.3.1 and 17.4.4.

A link to the full ASA decision can be found here.