Ladbrokes ad pulled for depicting socially irresponsible gambling

The ASA determined the major mood swings experienced by the individuals in the ads suggested problem gambling behaviour.

Complainant against Ladbrokes ad argued that it depicted socially irresponsible gambling behaviour
Complainant against Ladbrokes ad argued that it depicted socially irresponsible gambling behaviour

A TV ad for Ladbrokes breached ad guidelines for depicting socially irresponsible gambling and has been banned from broadcast by the Advertising Standards Authority.

In a single complaint made to the ASA, it was argued the TV spot portrayed individuals who appeared to be addicted to gambling and asserted the ad was inappropriate.

The TV spot, which was seen on 10 April 2021, began with a voiceover that stated: “I’m a nodder: up to the football, down to the app like a dog on a dashboard.” The scene showed a man looking up at a football game on the screen and then back to his phone, where he appeared to be placing bets.

The next scene showed a man at a railway station who appeared to be using the Ladbrokes app on his phone. The accompanying voiceover said: “When I bet, I’m a frustrated manager. I kick every ball.” The scene showed the man making kicking motions and becoming visibly frustrated. His actions prompted a glance from another person waiting at the station.

The third scene featured three men watching football. The accompanying voiceover stated: “If I’ve got an acca [accumulator] coming in, I find myself getting very excited.” The scene showed the three men jumping and screaming after a goal was scored. The ad then showed that the goal was being reviewed by VAR (video assistant referee). The three men were depicted looking extremely tense and nervous. One of the men said: “I just want the cheer.” The other man said: “Not yet.” The two men who had spoken were then shown with nervous faces. Lastly, the Ladbrokes logo was displayed and the voiceover said: “However you like to play, we’ve got your bet. Boost your acca odds at”

In response to the complaint, Ladbrokes said the concept of the ad was to present the feelings experienced around football matches and that the scenes showed people watching football and reacting to it in a typical manner. The firm said it had sought pre-broadcast advice from the Committee of Advertising Practice’s Copy Advice Service and that none of the scenes depicted problem gambling, according to CAP’s Advertising Guidance. 

Clearcast also considered the ad did not depict a gambling addict exhibiting problem gambling behaviour. It said that all the scenes showed men enjoying and engaged in football. In its view, none of the characters in the ad was detached from their surroundings and the ad depicted them going about their business. It said that while the characters were engaged with their bets and showed excitement at the anticipation of the results of the football, it did not consider that was socially irresponsible.

The ASA acknowledged Clearcast's and Ladbrokes’ view that the ad conveyed the emotions involved in enjoying football. But a statement from the watchdog said: “However, in the first scene, the man nodding up and down appeared to be continually placing bets rather than being focused on the game itself and as such appeared to have a preoccupation with his betting.

"We considered that the accompanying voiceover, ‘I’m a nodder, up to the football, down to the app like a dog on a dashboard’, was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to a man who repeated that behaviour all through the game, and who was engrossed in betting.

“We also acknowledged Clearcast’s view that the ad depicted men going about their business and aware of their surroundings. However, the second scene depicted a man on a station platform miming kicking a ball in frustration, unaware of his proximity to another passenger who was shown reacting to his behaviour. The ad made clear from the voiceover, ‘When I bet I’m a frustrated manager, I kick every ball’, that his behaviour was as a result of his betting, rather than just enjoying football.

"On that basis, we considered that the ad depicted a man who appeared to be detached from his surroundings and who had a preoccupation with gambling.”

The ASA also declared that the voiceover in the third scene was open to the interpretation that the men’s excitement was coming from potentially winning an accumulator, rather than the football itself. 

The ASA added: “We considered that the three men were depicted swinging from high levels of excitement to extreme tension as they waited for the outcome of the VAR’s review of footage. We considered that mood swings related to gambling was a problem gambling behaviour.

"Because the ad appeared to depict a major mood swing and directly related it to the tension of potentially winning an accumulator, rather than just watching sports, we considered that the ad depicted problem gambling behaviour.”