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ASA’s new Ladbrokes hit is a new regulatory low

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is challenging baseline reason with its recent ruling regarding a completely innocuous Ladbrokes’ advertisement. At least two outside parties have spoken out against the ruling and called it out for the absurdity that it is.

Back in October of 2020, Ladbrokes aired an advertisement on an on-demand video channel that depicted some punters sitting at a table in a cafe of some sort using a mobile app to wager on the horses. An announcer’s voiceover from the TV says, “Come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves,” while a man’s leg is shown shaking.

Somehow, the one person in the UK who always finds something wrong with gambling ads thought this was somehow socially irresponsible. If you find this confusing it’s because your brain is functioning. But that’s not how the ASA saw the situation. The UK’s top advertising regulators agreed with the complainer and hit Ladbrokes with an undisclosed sanction.

Ladbrokes’ defense picked up a boost when Clearcast, an independent advertising watchdog; and the broadcaster Channel 4, both spoke out on behalf of the company.

A Ladbrokes’ official defended the company saying in a report by SBC News saying the company, “Did not believe the ad depicted socially irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling.”

The ASA, who always has the final word on these matters countered by saying, “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.”

We would counter that the ASA is obviously detached from their surroundings, and probably owe Ladbrokes an apology.