Online operators 888, Sky Vegas, Ladbrokes and Casumo have been found guilty of breaching advertising standards rules surrounding so called ‘fake news’ advertorials targeting vulnerable people.
A total of nine complaints were received by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) relating to advertisements on websites which suggested that gambling would provide an escape from personal problems including depression and that it could potentially be a solution to financial concerns.
The four near-identical ads tell the story of ‘William’ who was supposedly £130,000 in debt because of mounting medical treatment costs for his wife. Under the title ‘On Their Wedding Night He Delivered a Secret She Wasn’t Ready For. The Result Will Have You In Tears,’ the article then goes on to claim that William discovered an advertisement for a gambling site which allowed him to win thousands of pounds, pay off his debts and take his wife on holiday to Bora Bora.
In the case of Sky Vegas, the ad states: “With little to no money to spend he admits he laughed and almost scrolled past it until he saw they were offering a promotion that would reward him with £10 free at the Jackpot 7 game, which at over £700,000 was too hard to pass up.”
Advertisements appeared on the 24hournews and casinohacks websites, which are known among industry circles to be providers of fake news which is commonly used to host affiliate links.
In all cases, the ASA found that the advertisements were deemed to “suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal problems such as depression or that it can be a solution to financial concerns.”
Responding to the rulings, Ladbrokes, Casumo and Sky Vegas all stated that the ads in question were generated by affiliates working with their brands and that they had not approved the advertising content in question. 888 stated that it had terminated its agreement with the affiliate found to have supplied the offending advertisement.
A spokesperson for Ladbrokes said: “Nobody in Ladbrokes Coral believes that this sort of ‘fake news’ marketing has a place in the sector. We have been reducing the number of affiliates we work with as well as clamping down hard on anyone using our name without our knowledge in a bid to curtail this sort of activity going forward.”
The ASA ruling stated that “The ad must not appear again in its current form” and informed each company that its “future ads, including those prepared by affiliates, must be clearly identifiable as marketing communications and to take care to ensure their ads were prepared in a socially responsible way.”
With rising numbers of affiliate operators falling foul of regulatory restrictions surrounding their advertisements, many operators are tightening up their affiliate communications criteria to avoid potential fines and to enforce good codes of practice on their affiliates. A good example of this is sports betting operator Paddy Power, who recently issued revised communication criteria to their affiliates clamping down on SMS, email and advertorial style marketing containing the Paddy Power brand.