On 2 August the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a ruling against online gambling operator Bonne Terre Ltd (Sky Bingo) for breaching the CAP Code. The ASA found that the advert in question – an advertorial posted by one of Sky’s affiliates, Moojah Ltd - was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.

The advert

The advertorial appeared on DailyTopLinks.com and promoted Sky Bingo Casino. It featured a headline that stated “EXCLUSIVE REPORT: ABERDEEN CITY MCDONALD’S EMPLOYEE WINS £296,121 ON HER LUNCH BREAK …” and below this a narrative explaining how the individual won the quoted amount.

At the bottom of the ad was the following:

DailyTopLinks.com is a general interest website containing articles about a wide variety of subjects. Many of these articles are what is [sic] commonly referred to as Advertorials. THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE. The term "advertorial" is a combination of "advertisement" and "editorial" written in an editorial format as an independent news story, when in fact the advertisement may promote a particular product or interest. Advertorials take factual information and report it in an editorial format to allow the author, often a company marketing its products, to enhance or explain certain elements to maintain the reader's interest. A familiar example is an airline's in-flight magazines that provide an [sic] editorial reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies”.

A complainant challenged whether the advert was clearly identifiable as a marketing communication.

The Ruling

In its response, Sky Bingo explained that the affiliate had created the content itself and that the affiliate was contractually obliged to receive approval from Sky before publishing any such material. Despite this – and the fact that the operator contacted the affiliate as soon as it was aware of the complaint to have it taken down - the regulator pointed to the fact that CAP Code rule 1.8 states that primary responsibility for observing the Code falls on marketers, and upheld the complaint.

Whilst the advert did include a disclaimer explaining that it was a marketing communication, the ASA found that consumers were likely to understand that the advertorial was editorial content as the disclaimer was at the bottom of the ad, rather than at the top. The regulator commented that if it had included a header identifying it as an ad - and this had been prominently presented - it would have immediately clarified to consumers from the outset that it was a marketing communication.

The advert was found to be in breach of rules 2.1 and 2.4 (recognition of marketing communications) of the CAP Code.

The full ruling can be found here.