ASA: Children’s exposure to TV gambling ads falls by a quarter over past decade

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has published a report into children’s exposure to TV gambling and alcohol advertising over the past decade. 

According to the authority, the number of gambling ads seen by young people has fallen from an average of three per week in 2010 to 2.2 per week in 2021, with exposure to such commercials relative to adults declining year-on-year from 36% in 2010 to 15.4% in 2021.

This represents a decline in exposure to televised gambling ads of ‘just over a quarter’, the ASA detailed, and is indicative of a ‘general downward trend’ – however, the organisation noted that children are far more active online now than in previous years.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive, said: “Our latest report confirms the ongoing decline in children’s exposure to ads for age-restricted products, which is what our rules are designed to achieve. But of course that’s not the full story. 

“Children’s media consumption habits are changing significantly, which is why we’re also focussed on protecting them online. Later this year, we’ll publish our findings on the ads they are seeing across the internet and social media as part of our zero-tolerance approach to age-restricted ads being served to children.”

Exposure to TV gambling marketing peaked in 2013 when a total of 4.4 were viewed weekly, whilst exposure to bingo ads – which along with lottery and scratchcard commercials represent the majority of gambling ads seen by children – has fallen to its lowest level since 2011. 

Additionally, children’s exposure to sports betting advertisements has decreased from a peak in 2011 and has remained at a consistently low level since 2019. 

All Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) members currently adhere to a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban in which TV adverts cannot be shown from five minutes before a sporting event until five minutes after it finishes before the 9pm watershed – this has been hailed by the standards body as a ‘huge success’ by limiting children’s viewership of betting ads. 

In its report, the ASA did detail some regional differences. Notably, the Authority found that the number of gambling ads seen weekly by under-16s in England dropped from 2.9 in 2010 to 2.1 in 2021, whilst in Scotland the corresponding figures were 3.5 to 2.8.

Meanwhile, Welsh under-16s saw the most TV ads for gambling at 3.2 in 2021 – although still a decline on the 3.9 seen per week in 2010 – in stark contrast to children in Northern Ireland. 

Overall, Northern Irish under-16s saw the fewest gambling ads, with the decline in the average number of ads seen weekly from 3.5 in 2010 to 1.4 in 2021 described as the ‘strongest rate of decline in exposure of all four nations’ by the ASA.

As noted by the ASA, however, much of the changes in children’s advertising exposure can be attributed to changing trends in media consumption, prompting the organisation to initiate its 100 Children Report.

This programme will involve a panel of 100 11-17 year old children drawn from across the UK, whose views will be leveraged to ‘take action’ against age-restricted ads ‘served inappropriately’ to children’s websites and social media accounts.

The ASA intends to use this research to ‘provide a crucial insight into the real-world experiences of children’s exposure to and interaction with online ads’.

Separate developments will see Avatar technology used to simulate children’s online profiles to find out what ads are viewed online along with ‘quarterly CCTV-style monitoring sweeps’ to find age-restricted ads in violation of rules. 

The ASA’s update on its plans follows the decision by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to prohibit the use of high-profile figures known to younger audiences in betting advertising campaigns, a move which was praised by GambleAware’s Chief Communications Officer Alexia Clifford.

Writing on marketing news site Campaign, Clifford reiterated the ASA’s point that changes in the media landscape required a new approach to betting and gaming advertising, as younger consumers navigate an ‘entirely different world through online and social media’.

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