Gibraltar-based operator Tombola has been reprimanded by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for promoting its gambling games in the official app for television programme ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’.
The ASA had raised concerns over whether the ads were appropriately targeted, given that they were being featured in an app for a television programme that attracted some viewers under the age of 18.
The adverts in question were occasionally featured in a section of the app where users could watch video clips, with one featuring the words ‘Play Our Slot Games’ and another ‘Play Our Scratch Card Games’.
Another ad always appeared in the ‘Vote’ section of the app, where users could vote to save their favourite celebrity from eviction or nominate someone to take on a trial on the programme. The ad included text that stated users could win a share of £250,000 (€284,500/$324,100) and clicking the ad redirected them to the Tombola website.
All of the ads in question featured gambling warnings and text that stated the games were for users aged 18 or older. Tombola was the main sponsor of the 2018 series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
Responding to the challenge, Tombola said that content in the app was part of its wider sponsorship of the programme, with the operator having worked with broadcaster ITV to ensure it was in line with its usual viewership. At the point in the series when it responded to the ASA, audience indexing data from BARB showed that 91% of viewers were aged 18 or over.
Tombola also highlighted how it had included ‘18+’ and the ‘Begambleaware.org’ warning messages on the ads and that wording in the adverts was designed to promote its brand and games to adult users. The operator also insisted that if the user were to click on an advert, they would need to pass “stringent checks” in order to register on its site.
ITV Broadcasting, the publisher of the app, said the programme was shown on television after the 9pm watershed due to potential age-inappropriate content, adding that the programme was not targeted at audiences under the age of 18.
The broadcaster also said that the primary purpose of the app was for viewers to interact with the programme and not to promote gambling, with the ads pushed further down the feed as newer content was added.
However, the ASA upheld the complaint, citing the CAP Code that requires ads for gambling products not to be directed at consumers under the age of 18 and for marketers to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to ensure this did not happen.
In its assessment, the ASA said the ad in the voting section did not specifically target underage gamblers, but may have been appealing to some users under the age of 18.
The ASA also acknowledged that BARB data suggests the majority of viewers were over the age of 18. However, the watchdog also understood that some under-18s would nonetheless have downloaded the app.
In addition, the ASA said there were no mechanisms built into the app to target ads towards, or direct them away from, certain groups of users, including those under the age of 18. As the app was readily available to those not of a legal age to gamble, the ASA said should not have used the app to deliver gambling ads to consumers.
Concluding its ruling, the ASA said Tombola “did not take sufficient care, through the selection of media, to ensure that the ads were directed at an audience aged 18 and over so as to minimise under-18s’ exposure to them”. This breached rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.13 of the CAP Code.
As a result, the ASA said the ads “must not be used again in the form complained of without specific targeting to minimise the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to them”. The ASA also told Tombola to ensure ads are appropriately targeted in future.
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