ASA presses operators to improve age restrictions on gambling ads

The ASA wants operators to make better use of targeting tools.
The ASA wants operators to make better use of targeting tools.

The British advertising watchdog has said that operators should make better use of audience targeting tools to reduce children’s exposure to gambling ads.

UK.- The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said that all adult-content advertisers, including gambling operators, need to improve their use of audience targeting tools to reduce children’s exposure to age-restricted adverts. 

It made the call to companies advertising alcohol and high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) foods as well as gambling products.

The ASA performs regular “monitoring sweeps” through which it measures the amount of age-restricted adverts accessible by minors in the UK via different platforms.

Its latest sweep focused on high-volume mixed-age online platforms that attract large numbers of users who don’t log in. That included YouTube.

It used six avatars configured to reflect the online browsing profile of minors. It used them to visit 250 mixed-age sites on desktop and mobile devices twice a day and measure the distribution of dynamically served ads for alcohol, gambling and HFSS products.

Advertisers targeting UK audiences must not show age-restricted ads in sites that are designed for children, or where children make up 25 per cent or more of the audience, but they can post adverts on mixed-age media if at least 75 per cent of their audience is over 18.

In its latest sweep, the ASA’s avatars received 27,395 ads over a three-week monitoring period. It found that gambling ads were shown to child and adult avatars in similar numbers. However, its neutral avatar, with no browsing history to indicate age, was shown fewer gambling ads.

The ASA found similar results with HFSS ads, but reported that no alcohol ads were shown to its child avatars.

It recognised that its figures do not represent real-world exposure to advertising but still suggested that advertisers needed to make better use of targeting technology. 

The ASA said that advertisers should use technology that allows them to target subsets of audiences with regards to age, location and browsing interests.

Chief executive Guy Parker said: “We call on advertisers to make better use of targeting tools to minimise children’s exposure to dynamically served age-restricted ads. And we call on third parties involved in the distribution of these ads to ensure the data and modelling on which those tools rely are as effective as they can be.

“Finally, we will be exploring whether the report should lead to more prescriptive measures relating to dynamically served age-restricted ads. This latest monitoring sweep is just one part of a wider set of initiatives where we’re harnessing technology, all with the aim of ensuring children are protected online.”

In its last report on children’s exposure to restricted advertising, the ASA found that children continue to see more betting ads than in 2008. However, children’s exposure to gambling ads remains lower than the peak reported in 2013.

Last month, the ASA warned bingo operators over breaches of responsible advertising obligations

The watchdog reminded operators that bingo is subject to the same regulations on advertising as other gambling products under the gambling section of the advertising codes. 

Earlier this month, the ASA upheld a complaint against Ladbrokes over an ad for sports betting that it said could encourage problem gambling.

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