Ladbrokes falls foul of ASA once more as Tweets come into question


Ladbrokes has once again fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority after the watchdog challenged if a quartet of tweets included an individual, or individuals, that would likely pose a strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.

This becomes the latest action taken against the Entain owned brand regarding the social media site that is now known as X, with previous activity concerning Premier League managers and Youtuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul.

In making its latest ruling, the ASA noted that it forms part “of a wider piece of work banning gambling ads which, under strengthened rules, are prohibited from being likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s”.

The latest four Tweets in question, seen during January and February 2023, were identified following intelligence gathered by the group’s Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to proactively search for online ads that might break the ASA code.

Each of the four promoted Tweets included Novak Djokovic, with others also containing one, or a combination, of Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas, while various relevant imagery, text and polls serving as an accompaniment.

In response, Ladbrokes noted that the tweets were intended to be editorial content designed to engage with their audience, with complementary polls simply asking users to vote on tennis-related questions during the Australian Open.

“Ladbrokes acknowledged that the tweets referenced and included imagery of prominent players, but stated that they reviewed each player’s media profile, follower demographic, and sponsorship partnerships to assess whether the players would be likely to strongly appeal to under 18s,” the ASA wrote in its overall ruling.

The operator provided data to indicate the players had “hardly any” followers below the age of 21, with this, and associated brand partnerships, cited as a belief that each appealed to an older audience rather than under 18s.

However, despite acknowledging a potential lack of accuracy due to self-verification on the site, data highlighted that the impressions for all four ads varied between 24,653 and 35,050, with only one impression in the 18-24 age bracket. 

“They believed that was an anomaly and requested clarification from Twitter in relation to it,” the ASA concluded of the business’ response.

Upholding its own challenge, the ASA shared that prominent sportspeople, including tennis players at the highest level and who had a significant national profile, were considered high risk within CAP guidance in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under 18s.

In addition, the ASA also highlighted recent successes as backing-up a view of a “strong appeal to those under 18”, as well as acknowledging, but ruling out, back-up data supplied by Ladbrokes. 

The advertising regulator wrote: “We considered that it would have been acceptable for the ads to appear in a medium where those under 18, for all intents and purposes, could be entirely excluded from the audience. 

“That would apply in circumstances where those who saw the ads had been robustly age-verified as being 18 or older, such as through marketing lists that had been validated by payment data or credit checking. 

“We did not consider that marketing data inferred from user behaviour met that threshold. We acknowledged that the ads were targeted at the over 25s, but because Twitter was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age-verification, we considered that Ladbrokes had not excluded the under 18s from the audience with the highest level of accuracy required for ads, the content of which was likely to appeal strongly to this age group.”

The ASA warned that the ads must not appear again in their current form, in addition to reminding Ladbrokes not to include people or characters who hold a strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their advertising.