The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against a Ladbrokes on-demand video ad, which depicted a café scene and various people using the company’s app on their mobile phones.

Seen on All4 on October 25, 2020, it featured a clip of a horse race, a voice-over which stated “Come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves,” and a man’s leg that was shaking, with the complainant challenging whether the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.

In its response Ladbrokes said that it “did not believe the ad depicted socially irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling”. 

The gambling firm further indicated that the individual featured was simply getting nervous ahead of starter’s orders, arguing that nerves before a sporting event were normal emotions.

Ladbrokes said many people enjoyed gambling safely every week, and the ad intended to convey that enjoyment, and to portray using the app as fun and entertaining. 

Clearcast, which clears ads for broadcast on UK commercial television, noted a belief that the individual in the ad was not detached from his surroundings but was focused on watching the race on television, adding that he was not shown being harmfully obsessed with his bet.

Furthermore, Channel Four said they did not believe the ad was socially irresponsible or could cause financial, social or emotional harm, and highlighted a number of approaches that would have been problematic for the ad to have taken.

In its assessment, the ASA noted the CAP Code, which states that ads must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to any of those harms listed above.

Noting the responses offered, the UK’s regulator of advertising explained: “We disagreed with Clearcast’s view that the man was never disconnected from his companion, or from the room, and considered viewers would assume from his behaviour that he was preoccupied with the outcome of the race in relation to a bet he had placed. We also considered that the man was obviously detached from his surroundings as he watched.”

Ladbrokes have been told to ensure that future ads do not depict gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible, such as detachment from surroundings and preoccupation with the activity.