Ladbrokes’ losing streak with the ad watchdog is continuing, after the firm has been found guilty of breaking new rules which forbid betting firms from using brand spokespeople who are likely to appeal to underage gamblers.
The issue concerns two tweets, the first of which featured images of Premier League manager Eddie Howe with a large “V” between them denoting: “19th in 2022 V 3rd in 2023. Eddie Howe’s one-year masterclass!”
The second, under the headline “Ladbrokes. Next manager to leave odds”, featured four portraits – of David Moyes, Frank Lampard, Brendan Rogers and Gary O’Neil, with the odds listed beneath their names.
Despite receiving no complaints from the public, the Advertising Standards Authority launched it own investigation into whether the ads included individuals who were likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.
In response, Ladbrokes explained that the first tweet was intended to be editorial content to celebrate Eddie Howe’s recent period of success as the manager of Newcastle United. It said the post contained no calls to action, no promotional offers and no links directing consumers to the Ladbrokes website where they could place bets.
The Ladbrokes’ Twitter feed and respective tweets could not be accessed by users unless Twitter had accepted their age as being over-18. They understood that Twitter users self-verified their age, and because that was not always accurate, they had added an additional level of assurance by targeting the ad on social media to only reach over-25s. The data showed a total of 22,182 impressions, and that 0% of their targeted audience was under 25 years of age.
Ladbrokes acknowledged that the second tweet was commercial in nature as it contained market prices for the next Premier League manager to lose his job. It said it inadvertently included imagery of the managers, which was contrary to its own guidance and standard procedure for commercially oriented content. It said it had taken steps to ensure that content of that nature would be reviewed more thoroughly to ensure future ads would comply with the advertising rules.
In its ruling, the ASA considered that because both ads appeared in paid-for space online, they were clearly marketing communications that fell under the CAP Code.
Ultimately, the regulator deemed that managers of top football clubs were likely to appeal to underage consumers. And, while it would have been acceptable had the ads appeared in a medium where the ages of over-18s were “robustly verified”, Twitter’s self-verification model meant many users could lie about their age.
Banning the ads from appearing again, the watchdog warned Ladbrokes not to use people who have strong appeal to under-18s in its future marketing communications.
Last week, Ladbrokes was battered by the ASA under similar grounds after it ran a promotional tweet using an image of popular YouTuber Jake Paul.
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