ASA's rule writing arm CAP has published new standards to restrict gambling ads from being seen by under 18s.
This follows a review of the evidence on advertising's impact on under-18s and rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority. The last review was carried out in 2014.
The evidence suggests that exposure to gambling ads that comply with the UK's Advertising Codes is, of itself, unlikely to harm under-18s. Targeted restrictions are still required, however, to address the potential risks associated with
irresponsible advertising. While the advertising rules don't need to change, we have introduced new standards to strengthen how they apply in practice.
The new standards:
prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at groups of individuals who are likely to be under 18 based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour;
extensively list unacceptable types of content, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities that are likely to be of particular appeal to children, and references to
youth culture; and
prohibit the use in gambling ads of sportspersons, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under 25; and
adds to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads, covering all media (including social networks and other online platforms)
In particular, the standards provide examples of scenarios to help advertisers understand what they need to do to target ads away from under-18s. For example:
Social media -- gambling operators must use all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s. This includes both ad targeting facilities provided directly by the platform based, on
their platform users' interests and browsing behaviour, and tools that restrict under-18s' access to marketers' own social media content.
Parts of websites for under-18s -- gambling operators should take particular care to avoid placing their ads on parts of websites of particular appeal to under-18s. For example, a football club's website might have a strongly adult
audience in general, but it would be inappropriate to place gambling ads in pages dedicated to younger supporters.
Social and online gaming -- gambling-like games or games that feature elements of simulated gambling activity are often popular with children and young people. Such games should not be used to promote real-money gambling products. Where
social and online games feature marketing communications for gambling games, they should not be directed at under-18s.
Influencers -- gambling operators should take particular care when identifying influencers to promote their products or brands. They should take into account the influencer's likely appeal and obtain audience data (for instance, the
age-breakdown of a follower or subscriber-base) to ensure that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25% of the audience.
Affiliates -- responsibility lies with gambling operators to ensure that affiliates or other third parties acting on their behalf to publish or disseminate ads that comply with the advertising rules.
The UK advert censor ASA does not have powers to enforce its own decisions but in some cases where it identifies illegality or fraudulent claims etc it can call on other agencies, such as Trading Standards to take action.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards has just been appointed by National Trading Standards to act as the legal backstop of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The move means that the ASA will refer businesses and individuals who
continue to break the rules on misleading advertising to B&STS, which can apply a range of legal enforcement powers to bring them into line.
ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker commented:
We're delighted to establish this new working relationship with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards. They are fully committed to our partnership and acting on our referrals to bring problem advertisers into line.
The backstop power has transferred to Buckinghamshire and Surrey following changes to Regulatory Services at Camden Trading Standards, who previously fulfilled the role.
Presumably Trading Standards will have no role in enforcing ASA prohibitions that are made on grounds of political correctness or the likes of claims of widespread offence.
A product listing for clothing and lifestyle shop Olanstar, which appeared on www.amazon.co.uk, seen on 14 November 2018. Text at the top of the ad stated Olanstar School Girl Costume Halloween Cosplay Uniform Classic Pleated Mini Skirt with
Bow-knot. Beneath that a sub-heading stated See more on the Sex and Sensuality store. The ad included seven photos of a female model wearing a school girl costume. The model was shown in a variety of poses which included her knelt on both knees,
to laying on her back, to bending over with the camera pointed from behind her. Description of the item further down the page stated Pure student dress up, this sexy schoolgirl outfit lights your passion at night, inspires both infinite
imagination of youth. Issue
A complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code by portraying someone who appeared to be under 18 years of age in a sexual way. Assessment
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA was concerned by Olanstar's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code.
We considered that all of the photos in the ad were to some extent sexual in nature. In particular, we noted that one photo, in which the model was photographed from above while she was lying down with her legs crossed from right to left,
revealed her bare inner thigh; another photo showed the model kneeling barefoot on a sofa and biting her finger alongside the caption SEXY APPEAL. All other photos showed the model either on her knees or bent over which we considered drew
attention to her body in a sexually suggestive manner.
The advertiser had not responded to the complaint and we therefore did not have any information about whether the model was aged 18 years or over. However, we considered that the model seemed petite, with smooth skin and very little make-up which
made her appear to be under the age of 18.
For those reasons we considered that the ad depicted a person who appeared to be under the age of 18 in a sexual way and was therefore in breach of the Code.
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Olanstar Technology Co Ltd t/a Olanstar to ensure future ads did not include images that portrayed or represented anyone who was, or seemed to be, under 18 in a sexual manner. We referred the
matter to the CAP compliance team.
A poster for Go Vilnius, a development agency for Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, seen on 10 August 2018, stated in red text Nobody knows where it is, but when they find it - it's amazing. VILNIUS THE G-SPOT OF EUROPE. The ad featured an
image of a woman, visible from the upper part of her face. The woman was lying on material printed with a map of Europe, with her hair splayed out behind her head. Her eyes were closed and she had one arm raised above her head, gripping the
material in her hand at the point on the map where Vilnius was located. Issue
A complainant, who believed the ad was overtly sexual and the image of the woman was unrelated to the product, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld
The ASA considered that the ad was risqu39 and sexually suggestive in tone, due to the reference to VILNIUS THE G-SPOT OF EUROPE, and the image of the woman gripping the map with her eyes closed. However, we considered the ad portrayed that
suggestiveness in a light-hearted and humorous way, for example through the statement Nobody knows where it is, but when they find it - it's amazing, and because the woman appeared in a surreal and unrealistic scenario, indicating the location of
Vilnius on the map of Europe. We considered the ad did not contain anything which pointed to an exploitative or degrading scenario or tone.
While we acknowledged that some might find the ad distasteful, we considered, for the above reasons, the ad did not objectify the female character and we concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Following a public consultation, CAP has announced that ads will no longer be able to depict what it claims are harmful gender stereotypes .
The new rule in the Advertising Codes, which will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media (including online and social media), states:
[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
The new rule does not seek to ban gender stereotypes outright, but to identify specific harms that it decides should be prevented.
CAP has published
guidance to help advertisers stick to the new rule by providing examples of scenarios likely to be problematic in ads. For example:
An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man's inability to change nappies; a woman's inability to park a car.
Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful,
for example in their romantic or social lives.
An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy's stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl's stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.
An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically 'female' roles or tasks.
The rule and guidance does not intend to prevent ads from featuring:
Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles;
One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender;
Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.
The new rule will come into force on 14 June 2019 .
CAP will carry out a 12 month review after the new rule comes into force to make sure it's meeting its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes.
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