A VOD ad for Ladbrokes, seen on All4 on 25 October 2020, showed various people using the Ladbrokes app on their mobile phones. One scene showed a clip of a horse race, before showing a man in a cafe with several other people, looking away from them
at something else in the distance, over the shoulder of one of them. A voice-over stated, Come starter's orders, I'm a bag of nerves. The man's leg was shaking, making the food and cutlery on the table shake. A woman said to him, Really?, capturing his
attention briefly, before he turned away again.
A single complainant challenged whether the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.
Ladbrokes did not believe the ad depicted socially
irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling. He was simply stating that he got nervous ahead of starter's orders which would be his natural reaction whether or not he was gambling. They said the
ad featured people in everyday situations, and characters continuing with life in normal day-to-day activities.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The CAP Code stated that ads must not portray, condone or
encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP's Advertising Guidance on Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling made clear that ads which portrayed or otherwise
referred to individuals displaying problem gambling behaviours or other behavioural indicators linked to problem gambling were likely to breach the Code.
Marketers should take care to avoid an implication of such behaviours, for
instance, outwardly light-hearted or humorous approaches that could be regarded as portrayals of those behaviours. Behaviours associated with people displaying or at risk from problem gambling included detachment from surroundings and preoccupation with
We noted Clearcast's view that the ad implied the man was watching a race on television, and we agreed that based on the scene and the simultaneous voice-over referring to starter's orders, viewers were likely to
interpret the ad as showing him watching the television as the race was about to begin. He was watching intently, and his shaking the table with his knee which, while clearly intended to be humorous, suggested he was preoccupied with the race while his
food remained untouched. He was described as being a bag of nerves, which we considered viewers were likely to interpret was as a result of his having placed a bet on the race. It was clear that he was engrossed in the race to the extent that his
companion had to point out his actions to bring his attention away from watching the television. We noted that, after responding to his companion, he appeared to turn away, though the shot was brief and he was looking down. We disagreed with Clearcast's
view that the man was never disconnected from his companion, or from the room, and considered viewers would assume from his behaviour that he was preoccupied with the outcome of the race in relation to a bet he had placed. We also considered that the man
was obviously detached from his surroundings as he watched.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, and therefore breached the Code.