The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took issue with the outdoor element of the current “Ladbrokes Life” push, which showcased a profile of each of the five “betting men” characters from the TV and video ads (see below).
The watchdog banned two of the posters, which contained the statements “When you win it’s skill – when you lose it’s bad luck” and “Once is luck – twice is talent” ruling that they may appear to endorse an irresponsible attitude towards gambling when isolated from the story in the TV and video ads.
The wider campaign sparked 98 complaints, the majority of which challenged whether the ads breached the advertising code because they portrayed socially irresponsible gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
Other objections to the ads included: portraying gambling as indispensable; suggesting peer pressure to gamble; suggesting gambling could enhance personal qualities; and portraying gambling in the context of “toughness”.
The ASA acknowledged the parallels between the opening scene of the TV and video ads (above) with the credit sequence of cult film “Reservoir Dogs”. It was also concerned with some aspects of the descriptions of the characters, which the regulator said “carried an element of bravado” and could suggest gambling was an aspirational way of life.
In spite of this initial concern, it ruled that given the tongue-in-cheek style of the TV and video ads, most viewers would understand the “mock-heroic” intent of the voiceover and would not interpret the ads to imply gambling would lead to admiration or an enhancement of personal qualities.
Additional complaints arguing the campaign was irresponsible because it could be seen by under 18s and separate complaints challenging whether the ads should be banned because they linked gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness were not upheld by the regulator.
In response to the ruling a Ladbrokes spokesman said: “Ladbrokes Life is a major re-launch of our brand and the customer reaction has been very positive. It was never our intention to push any boundaries but will act immediately to comply with the findings in relation to two posters.
“We remain committed to our advertising meeting all the correct standards and take seriously our obligation to target responsible gambling messages as evidenced by our own dedicated responsible gambling advert, a first for the industry”
The ruling comes in the same week Ladbrokes – alongside William Hill, Coral and Paddy Power – set up a new self-regulatory gambling industry body to quell concern from politicians and the public about levels of excessive gambling.
The Senet Group, as it is known, took out full-page ads across the national press yesterday (15 September) outlining their pledge to prohibit pre-watershed TV ads carrying the enticement of free bets and free money.
Video: Ladbrokes Life TV ad