That’s all it took for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban one of Sky Bet’s televised sports betting adverts in March.
Now news has broken of the nonsensical ban being reversed upon appeal, it's difficult to imagine who would have complained about such a promotion. Equally, it was difficult for the industry to comprehend the ASA’s decision to prohibit it.
Less ludicrous would be a suggestion the complaints came from Sky Bet ambassadors Paul Merson and Matt Le Tissier, as a wind up, as opposed to complainants who found actual fault.
For context, the ad in question involved football presenter Jeff Stelling asking "how big is your sports noggin?" It focused on knowledge of sports helping a player use Sky Bet’s Request a Bet feature.
The reason behind its ban? It implied sporting knowledge can help someone while betting on sports. Again, it’s difficult to understand who could possibly have made or entertained a complaint like that – twice, no less.
But now is not the time to criticise the ASA. Instead, it deserves praise. It has, thanks to an objective review of the facts, had the courage to overturn its initially incorrect decision.
Such is the current anti-gambling climate within the UK, the ASA may well have gotten away scot free if it hadn’t allowed the advert to air ever again. The regulatory body however, has acted with moral standing.
It may have been demeaning for Sky Bet to explain tediously basic principles in defence of the advert; but it is a genuine cause for celebration for our industry that standing up for what’s right can have positive results.
Any such cause, no matter how small, is a metaphorical milestone in shifting the public narrative. Added to the voluntary increase in problem gambling funding confirmed by some of the UK’s largest operators in June, along with the voluntary whistle-to-whistle advertising ban announced in December, bookie-bashing media outlets are having to face a horrific reality.
Look away now: positive gambling-related stories do exist, after all. Aaah!
No longer should operators worry about exceedingly restrictive guidelines, where a sports betting company essentially has to avoid discussing sports in its adverts. Imagine a travel company not being allowed to promote the benefits of traveller knowledge? Imagine a car company not being allowed to describe the features of its new car?
Let’s not forget this was an ad which included GambleAware branding throughout and ended with Stelling reminding viewers "when the fun stops stop." This was as responsible as you can get on television – for any product.
There was no promise of unrealistic winnings; there was no cringeworthy "lad" banter. There was simply a description of the product in question and a promotion of the benefits of using it. If that isn’t allowed, all marketing may as well be scrapped, losing billions in revenue and millions of jobs.
One could argue the ASA should have dismissed the original complaints then and there, as it often does with betting-related cases. But there may be advantages of Sky Bet – and the wider industry – having experienced a successful appeal of this kind.
If certain politicians were in charge of the hearing process, justice might well have eluded us all. Gambling however, can hold its head high after hearing some welcome good news.
Although it should have been a given already, advertising departments can now breathe easier. Unacceptable, irresponsible adverts should continue to be punished; others should not. The ASA may have got it wrong in the first instance but the issue is and always will be that simple.
Common sense prevails.