Following the announcement of the outcome of a consultation in April, new rules protecting under-18s came into force on 1 October further strengthening the Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) commitment to protect young and other vulnerable people from gambling advertising-related harms.
The previous restrictions on creative content required that ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to under-18s. The new rules are based on a ‘strong’ appeal test, which prohibits content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a significant level of appeal to under-18s, regardless of how it is viewed by 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 an audience. For example, freely accessible ads will not be able to use:
- Topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18 on social media.
- All sportspeople well-known to under-18s, including sportspeople with a considerable volume of under-18 followers on social media.
- References to video game content and gameplay popular with under-18s.
- Stars from reality shows popular with under-18s, such as Love Island.
Marketers now need to ensure their campaigns comply. Ideally, they should adapt their compliance processes to assess all the pieces of content included in their creatives (a character, personality, graphic etc.) under the new standard. Ultimately, in the event of a complaint or proactive monitoring work, they must satisfy the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that there are no indicators of content being of significant interest or popularity among under-18s.
- Step one is largely a continuation of the existing policy. Content forunder-18s (like characters from children’s media or overtly child-oriented themes) is strictly prohibited.
- For all other pieces of content, marketers should scope out relevant connections. Where does a character used originate from? Is the graphical style employed similar to a type of popular video game? What is a brand ambassador known for outside the context of the ad? The emphasis should be on current and more recent activities.
- Firstly, marketers should avoid activities or roles of an aspirational nature or likely to have significant affinities for under-18s. The role of captain in a UK national sports team is a good example.
- The main method of assessment is to identify metrics associated with the various roles and activities scoped out like audience data for associated TV shows, cinema, video games, or follower/analytic data for social media accounts. The latter can be used in relation to personalities but also characters, like those from video games.
- The more comprehensive the assessment, the more effective in reducing risk. If data from one or more of the sources suggests under-18s are present at more than very low levels in the audience, there is a significant risk that ASA will uphold a complaint.
The new rules are also accompanied by several exemptions to allow gambling and lotteries products related to areas of higher risk of appeal to under-18s to be advertised within limited circumstances. There’s also an exemption from the new standards for ads delivered subject to strict age-verification. Detail of these, along with more on the approach to ensuring compliance is included in CAP’s new guidance that was published alongside the rules.
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