The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert for online operator 21.co.uk, declaring that it over-emphasised the influence of strategy in the game of blackjack depicted in the thirty-second spot.
Seen in March 2017, the advert featured a tuxedoed blackjack player mulling over a bet, with a voiceover stating: “His heart is pounding. His body is still. He shuffles his chips as he thinks. Heart versus head. Emotion versus reason. He makes his move. He makes his own luck.”
The ASA challenged the advert on two counts – firstly, whether the claim “he makes his own luck” implied that gambling involved skill rather than chance, and therefore that the ad was socially irresponsible, and secondly, whether the ad portrayed gambling in a “context of toughness”.
Although 21.co.uk argued that blackjack was a strategic card game and “make your own luck” was a common expression referencing the positive impact of practice on a player’s chance of success, the ASA upheld that the ad was irresponsible.
Continuing, while the ASA acknowledged that the man did not display “overt attributes of physical toughness”, it upheld the second challenge on the basis that “he would be viewed by consumers as displaying signs of mental toughness or resilience in the face of taking a major risk by betting all of his chips at once”.
The ASA did not, however, uphold a separate complaint levelled at the ad by a member of the public that it made reference to “a psychological thrill experienced by gambling addicts” in depicting a dilation of the man’s pupils.
It noted that his “overall demeanour was calm and there was nothing in the ad to suggest that his behaviour was compulsive”.
The ASA concluded by ruling that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and advised 21.co.uk to avoid over-emphasising the role of strategy in future marketing communications.