ASA continues hard line against comic book slot promotion

ASA continues hard line against comic book slot promotion

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Ladbrokes' Iron Man mailer has breached advertising codes

The challenges of promoting slots based on popular comic book characters has been thrown into sharp focus once again with the latest round of judgements from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA, which deals with complaints from the public about adverts, has upheld a complaint against Ladbrokes for an email promotion that highlighted the operator’s new Iron Man 3 slot. The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because he believed it was likely to be of particular appeal to children.

CAP Code stated that gambling ads must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.

Ladbrokes countered that email offers were sent to either registered customers or to consumers who they knew were over 18 years of age, meaning that the banner was unlikely to have been seen by any children or young people, and that the demographic of Marvel brand fans was just 6.39% for under 18s according to Comic Con, with the predominant proportion falling within the 18- to 37-year-old bracket.

This didn’t satisfy the ASA though. Despite the controlled distribution of the email, it maintained that ‘the content nevertheless should not have particular appeal to children or young persons’.

It added: “We understood that Iron Man was a popular character that would appeal to many adults but considered its comic book nature, and the availability of various related toys, meant it was likely to have particular appeal to children and young people. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.”

It is a harsh judgement, but the ASA still very much regards comic book heroes as appealing to children despite the ever widening demographic of appeal by the spate of super hero films over the last 10 years, some of which are quite adult in tone.

The ASA has been consistently harsh on the matter too. Back in 2008, Littlewoods Gaming had been running a 'Marvel Hero' campaign for three years without any complaints before one was prompted by the use of a banner promoting a Spider-Man game on a website where the average reader age was 41. This was enough for the ASA to act.

Even harsher was the later judgement from the ASA that told 888.com that it couldn’t run any promotion of the Spider-Man slot on its own website as the landing page obviously did not have any age controls.

Totally Gaming Says: While operators can argue 98% of the comic book market consists of people 18+, the truth is the licences have now transcended the comics, as the existence of Iron Man lego attests. Its appeal cuts across demographics, so operators will need to be careful when marketing other licences that have broad followings. 

However the ASA’s protection of children is laudable, the extremes to which operators are being censured for promoting a slot that has wide appeal and through narrow, age-controlled channels, does seem a bit excessive. 

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