Ladbrokes’ claims to endorse responsible gambling have already been blown out of the water by the ad watchdog just 48 hours after it set up a joint industry body with Paddy Power, William Hill, and Coral.
Part of a wider “Reservoir Dogs”-style “Labrokes Life” campaign, the issue centres on two outdoor executions which featured the straplines “When you win it’s skill – when you lose it’s bad luck” and “Once is luck – twice is talent”.
The initiative features ‘the betting men’ – ‘the believer’, ‘generous john, ‘Mr. Brightside’, ‘the professor’ and ‘gut truster’ – and was claimed to be the first evidence that Ladbrokes was promoting responsible gambling across all areas of its business.
But 98 members of the public were less than impressed, rifling off complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority over a number of issues.
The vast majority challenged whether the ads breached the code because they portrayed socially irresponsible gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
Meanwhile others believed the campaign portrayed gambling as indispensable and suggested gambling could enhance personal qualities; some even objected that it showed gambling in the context of “toughness”.
However, Ladbrokes mounted a rigorous defence of its strategy, stressing the characters were “normal, ordinary-looking men engaged in commonplace leisure activities and were not cool or glamorous”. It stated the ads did not show the men as behaving in an irresponsible or reckless manner or taking any risks beyond the mundane.
The ASA accepted most its argument, ruling that given the tongue-in-cheek style of the TV and video ads, most viewers would not interpret the ads to imply gambling would lead to “hero-worship”.
However, it banned the two posters, ruling that they may appear to endorse an irresponsible attitude towards gambling when isolated from the story in the TV and video ads.
On Monday, the new self-regulation body for the gaming industry, the Senet Group, pledged to rein in marketing activity to combat problem gambling in a move backed by client ad group ISBA. They will also launch an advertising campaign on responsible gambling and withdraw gaming machines from shop windows.
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