ASA details ‘tougher content restrictions’ on gambling ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has outlined more stringent restrictions on gambling advertising, as well as limitations on influencer marketing, in order to safeguard young consumers. 

Publishing the annual report into advertising viewership in 2021, the ASA and Committee on Advertising Practices (CAP)  revealed that children’s exposure to gambling commercials had fallen by just over a third, whilst alcohol ad consumption was down by two-thirds.

Children’s viewership of advertising in general had fallen over the past decade from 17.6 hours per week to 6.9 in 2020, whilst the number of ads seen per week fell from 229.3 in 2013 to 103.7 in 2020.

Cherie Leung, Regulatory Policy Executive at the CAP, explained: “The data shows that children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol has fallen at a faster rate than their exposure to all TV ads. 

“However, their exposure to TV ads for gambling has not, although it has declined since the 2013 peak and remained at a lower level.”

The ASA detailed in a report last week that the number of gambling ads seen by children had fallen from an average of three per week in 2010 to 2.2 per week in 2021. 

However, ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker observed that there has been a changing trend in children’s advertising consumption, with many now viewing online content much more than TV programming. 

This general trend can be seen in the number of complaints received by the authority, with 20,735 out of 43,325 complaints and 14,558 of 22,115 cases in 2021 concerning online material, followed by television at 20,425 and 4,802.

Mirroring similar developments in the Netherlands, the ASA is introducing new rules to ensure gamlbing and lottery marketing is not ‘of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture’.

The ‘tougher content restrictions on gambling ads’  are set to come into force on 1 October 2022, as an expansion of the current directive that gambling ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to minors. 

“A ‘strong’ appeal test prohibits content including imagery, themes and characters that have a strong level of appeal to under-18s,” explained CAP Regulatory Policy Executive Andy Taylor.

“Under these new rules gambling advertisers won’t be able to use sports people, reality TV stars and references to video games well known to under-18s, even if they also appeal strongly to adults. 

“In practice, this will significantly restrict the imagery and references that gambling ads will be allowed to use and should decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s.”

In order to effectively analyse the advertising habits of children in the UK in general, the ASA has also detailed that it is using Ai to enhance its monitoring capabilities in order to identify influencers who ‘fail to disclose when their posts are ads’.

The authority is capturing and analysing almost 20,000 Instagram stories using this method, monitoring dozens of influencers deemed ‘high risk’ each week. 

Guy Parker remarked: “Technology is transforming all our lives and as our annual report shows it’s also transforming how the ASA regulates misleading, harmful or irresponsible ads. 

“As our world leading use of artificial intelligence to help tackle misleading influencer ads demonstrates, we’re harnessing and increasing our use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver tech-assisted and proactive regulation. 

“It means we’re better able to respond to concerns and ensures we continue to provide a one-stop-shop for advertising complaints for the public and responsible businesses across the UK.”

Although the ASA has not specifically targeted influencers with relation to gambling ads, the acknowledgement of young people’s consumption of such content shows parallels to developments in the Netherlands. 

Under current Dutch gambling advertising restrictions, operators are not permitted to use ‘role models’ that may resonate with younger audiences in their campaigns, such as sports personalities or social media influencers.

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