The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the company responsible for regulating advertising are seemingly concerned about a rise in gambling adverts and how these could affect vulnerable people. Including those with addictions or people too young in order to use such services. They have called for the sector to take strides in combatting this so they don’t have to intervene themselves.
Yesterday was the ISBA yearly conference, attended by advertising bigwigs from around the country it is one of the biggest events of its type. ASA CEO, Guy Parker, was in attendance and had this to say: “One of the concerns we have is that gambling operators are using technology to target gambling ads and marketing at people that might be at risk of developing problem gambling behaviours.
“We and others, through the Gambling Commission, are focusing on flipping that so gambling operators are held to account to use technology to target ads away from people that might be vulnerable, away from children.”
continuing the fight
The ASA has spent a lot of effort investigating gambling ads recently. They created avatars in order to replicate the online browsing behaviour of children. It then studied the resulting adverts that people exhibiting such online behaviours would be shown. The results were startling. Gambling adverts were seen more than 150 times. At least five operators were shown to be breaking the laws which dictate gambling ads shouldn’t target under 18s.
Parker went on to criticise these operators. He made the point that them ignoring the rules on advertising shone a negative light on the whole industry. While advertising “bombardment” is a pressing issue in this subsection of advertising, the targetting of these adverts is also a massive cause for concern. He later added:
“Concerns around things like gambling advertising are influenced by this sense we have that we are being bombarded by gambling ads. And not just ads in commercial spots on TV, it’s shirt sponsorship, sponsorship arrangements, championships being sponsored by gambling companies. That is a tough one for us to deal with because we don’t regulate volume. But it is undoubtedly one of the things driving the distrust some people have in advertising; that feeling of bombardment might be the number one driver [of distrust] but in second place is the concern around the advertising of some products and services to vulnerable people – gambling being one.”
Of course, the regulating body doesn’t wield much power and consequently, there have been calls for government intervention. Although the regulating body would rather government support, rather than them taking over.
It isn’t just Parker that is worried about vulnerable people being targetted, ASA chairman Lord Currie has weighed in saying: “Statutory regulation is all very well, but I know very well from my experience at Ofcom and the CMA [Competition and Markets Authority, where he was also chairman] it is a good deal slower. And if you actually want to use your statutory powers to enforce, you have to be absolutely meticulous in the way you go through the processes. We can rely on the self-regulatory system and effective action of industry to act quicker.”
Part of the problem is that the ASA is somewhat hamstrung as a large portion of their funding comes from taxes put on advertising revenue. This is a big worry because without the ASA advertisers can get away with pretty much whatever they want. So they have to tread a fine line and make sure they are not damaging their own funds with the decisions they make. Parker has called to have that situation addressed claiming, “We have got to update the funding model.”