On 9 October 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) concluded that a sponsored Google search result for Casumo Services Limited (“Casumo”) offering free spins had been irresponsibly targeted. It was held that the ad for the gambling app breached the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising (“CAP Code”) because the ad was served to customers whose search terms might suggest they were looking to self-exclude.

The Ad

In May 2019, following a search for “how to unsubscribe from all gambling”, a Google sponsored search result for Casumo was shown which read "Welcome Bonus to New Players Casumo 100% and 20 Free Spins" and stated "Create an Account & Play now!".

It was alleged that this ad was irresponsibly targeted.

Casumo stated that its ads were served to people who searched for “gambling” or similar terms. However, they had created a list of excluded terms or combinations to prevent their ads from appearing where the word “gambling” was combined with certain other terms.

In this case, the particular combination had not been foreseen because Casumo claimed it did not consider the word “unsubscribe” would be used by customers looking to self-exclude. Instead, Casumo said that the word “unsubscribe” would be more likely to relate to a customer looking to stop receiving marketing emails or to cancel a subscription, rather than to self-exclude.

Despite this, upon being notified of the complaint, Casumo made the particular search term inactive for all their campaigns and reviewed its wider list of search terms to make sure it protected vulnerable customers. Casumo provided this list to the ASA and confirmed that the list was continuously reviewed. However, given their view on the standard meaning of the word “unsubscribe”, Casumo did not believe they had targeted the ad in an irresponsible manner.

The decision

The ASA held that customers who searched “how to unsubscribe from all gambling” would be likely to want to find out about the tools for opting out from receiving gambling ads or for self-excluding and blocking gambling sites. It was likely that a customer who wanted this information might go on to make use of these tools, and might be classed as a vulnerable consumer.

The ASA noted that rule 16.1 of the CAP Code required that marketing communications for gambling should have particular regard to the need to protect vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.

Therefore, although Casumo had immediately taken action upon being made aware of the complaint, the ASA considered that there was a strong possibility that vulnerable customers who might have been trying to block their exposure to gambling sites might have been served the ad.

The ASA therefore ruled that the ad breached CAP Code rule 16.1 and had not been targeted responsibly.

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