When it comes to restricting fun levels in the UK, it can sometimes seem like certain individuals and companies revel in implementing restrictions and limitations! Just when you think they’ve run out of red-tape, along they come with another big shiny roll to show you just how wrong you are.
The latest sector receiving treatment from the ‘fun police’ in Britain seems to be the gambling sector. As it stands, related adverts are currently being reviewed and, in all likelihood, look set to be tightened up by the current regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority. Which doesn’t have the power to fine companies who break rules, but can instead quite happily chastise them for doing so.
Of course, the ASA needs to make sure that all adverts are legal, decent, honest and truthful and exists in this sector to protect people from being misled by physical casinos or online companies. Actually, this is the reason the authority exists across the board – marketers across all sectors having been known to twist the rules and deliberately mislead on occasion. If not on a regular basis.
The current furore, though, seems to have been started by the fact that gambling is becoming more and more prominent in popular sporting events and often uses celebrities (sporting or otherwise), such as Ray Winston, to advertise its products and encourage people to try their offerings. However, one of the stranger aspects of this current focus on gambling adverts is that, in 2017, the adverts that caused offence had nothing to do with gambling. The greasy world of fast food largely being the offending industry in the firing line.
Beyond the Familiar Face
While, of course, the use of celebrities may sway a few people to use a product, or at least try it out, a trend evidenced by the amount of money that stars can make even just for putting a photo of themselves on Instagram or another social media platform, this kind of endorsement clearly isn’t the only form of advertising that can sway someone to try a product.
Perhaps the most important aspect to factor in when it comes to considering a new product or service, and this applies to online gambling as closely as any other industry, is the message given to us by word of mouth advertising, from consumers who have experience with the brand in question. Indeed, the best UK casinos rely on positive online chat reviews from those who have played with them to build their brand, not just the fact that a Premier League football team has their logo on their shirt.
Despite the fact that some may initially be drawn to casinos by big names, multiple features such as live casino options, and strong bonuses for existing customers do more for promoting a brand long-term.
Those able to look at the argument from a neutral perspective will quickly note the key issue when it comes to curtailing misleading gambling ads. If the ASA really is out to ensure that all ads across the border are legal, decent, honest and truthful, they’ll need to eradicate pretty much every advert from existence.
Watch any commercial break at any time of day and consider exactly how many are 100% truthful and in no way misleading. Drink a can of a popular soft drink and you’ll be young, attractive, happy, successful and able to dance in slow motion. Switch to a certain brand of alcohol and your life will be a nonstop party. Take a certain vitamin tablet and you’ll still be in prime health by the time you hit 100.
The whole point of marketing materials in general is to persuade us that we need things we actually don’t. Businesses come up with all manner of weird and wonderful stories to both persuade us and to outshine the competition. If a casino was to be 100% honest, they’d have to use a slogan along the lines of “We’re here to take your money and make massive profits out of your losses but come and spend your money here anyway!” Casinos are businesses that exist to make money – hence the need to market themselves effectively to remain competitive.
The Silver Lining
So gambling is now in the sights of those seeking to impose their view of what is right and wrong in the advertising world. In turn, the ball is even further in the court of those sites that allow users to read objective reviews of brands, and comments from those who have been there and done that before can help consumers make unbiased decisions as to whether to get themselves involved or not.
Nevertheless, what it will ultimately come down to is whether or not the casino gamers themselves actually take the time to read this kind of information and consider what’s on offer carefully. It’s the classic case of being able to take a horse to water, but not being able to force it to drink.
Not only this, but there’s little to no evidence to suggest that imposing restrictions on advertising for these kinds of businesses would really make much of a difference anyway. After all, they’ve been doing exactly this kind of thing with alcohol for many years now, yet we’re reminded on a daily basis that the UK’s collective drinking problem is only getting worse!
Online gambling is the kind of thing that isn’t going anywhere but up in the years and decades to come. From a common-sense perspective, putting the brakes on misleading adverts and marketing materials makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, the question of where to draw the line between what is and isn’t acceptable is one that isn’t going to be answered anytime soon.
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