‘Shocking’ sexual abuse link condemns GambleAware ad

gamble aware 2Charity GambleAware’s first ever ad campaign, designed to expose the perils of betting to youngsters, has been branded “shocking and distressing” by the ad watchdog for featuring a predatory man seemingly intent on sexually abusing a young girl in her bedroom.
Devised by 18 Feet & Rising, and funded by the Responsible Gambling Trust, the ads took the idea of the “voice in your head” and depicted a man using manipulative language to urge young people to gamble. They were shown in cinemas before Trainspotting 2.
One execution featured a girl sitting on her bed with the man sitting on a desk in the corner. The man said: “Hey it’s just a bit of fun. Remember that rush. You tingled, you tingled. Your whole body was tingling.”
During the monologue close up shots focused on his eyes and mouth. He continued: “You of all people need to have a little bit of fun. Fun … fun … fun. You and me let’s go, let’s do it again, let’s do it again. You’re a winner there, you and me now. That place that you’ve never felt so good.”
After the monologue, the girl went over to the desk where the man had disappeared and a laptop was revealed in his place. On the screen a bingo game was shown and she appeared to sign in and play. Large text then stated “BeGambleAware.org”.
However, one complainant, who believed the role of the male character could be interpreted as predatory and sexually abusive, objected that the ad was likely to cause offence and distress.
In response, the Responsible Gambling Trust said the menacing character was a figment of his victims’ imagination and, as such, he was not a physical entity, but a metaphor for the insidious, corruptive nature of a creeping, nagging gambling problem.
It also believed that although some viewers may feel offended by the link between sexual seduction and being seduced by the thrill of an early gambling win, that offence would be neither serious nor widespread. It believed the ad sought to get its important ‘gamble aware’ message across by highlighting the commonality of innocence and ignorance on the part of a young, novice gambler and that of a target for a sexual predator.
But the Advertising Standards Authority rejected this argument and considered that until the reveal in the final moments of the ad, viewers were unlikely to understand what the ad was promoting.
It noted that the advertiser’s intention was to demonstrate a woman in her bedroom battling against the urge to gamble online, but considered that for much of the ad this purpose was ambiguous and unclear.
Banning the ad, the watchdog ruled: “Until the reveal there was no information or other explanatory features in the ad that would provide the viewer with context for why they were viewing what they were viewing. We considered that, because of the lack of context, the ad reproduced a scenario of abuse. We considered that viewing such a scenario of abuse…was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
“We also considered that viewers would find the sexually coercive and abusive scenario shocking and distressing and that victims/survivors of abuse would find the ad highly distressing and/or traumatic. We did not consider that the advertiser’s intention justified the distress experienced by viewers generally, and the distress caused to this vulnerable group in particular.”

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