The Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA) published a ruling on 17 May 2023, upholding their concern that a display ad for gaming start-up Eaton Gate Gaming Ltd (trading as Kwiff) seen on a news article about the Junior Blues on the Portsmouth FC website breached the CAP Code. The ASA assessed that the selection of media and context through which Kwiff’s ad appeared was not in compliance with the rules in the advertising code.
A display advertisement promoting Kwiff was observed on the Portsmouth FC website on 15 December 2022 within a news article about the Junior Blues. The ASA called into question the appropriateness of the ad’s targeting.
The ad contained the following text: "Grab up to 200 Cash Free Spins on Book of Dead! Wager £20 on slots and Get 40 Cash Free Spins for five consecutive days. Sign Up Kwiff." The qualifying information within the advertisement stated: "18+ new customers only. £20 stake on slots each day within 5 days of 1st deposit to qualify. £0.1 Spins on Book of Dead. £250 total max withdrawal. Full T&Cs apply.”
In their response, Kwiff argued that the ad in question did not appear on those parts of the Portsmouth FC website that are dedicated to users under 18, namely the “Join the Junior Blues” membership pages. They also explained that the ad was not publicly available; instead, Kwiff suggested that the ad in question was “dynamic” because the location of the ad changed “based on the viewer’s online behaviour, the data obtained by the technology used, and the advertiser.”
Kwiff detailed their advertising processes, stating their use of software intended to target only those individuals that met specific pre-determined requirements. This includes targeting based on profiles made up by age, location and interests, and specifically excluding profiles under 18. Additionally, from their data, Kwiff explained that the 33 individuals who had interacted with the ad had all passed the age verification requirements, and a majority of viewers were existing Kwiff users who were age-verified upon registering with the platform.
Furthermore, Kwiff emphasised that the “portsmouthfc.co.uk” website was not aimed at children, and that the area on the website where the ad was displayed was in the news section, also not aimed at children. They said that the ad was not written to appeal to children, nor did the content and design of the ad itself appeal to children. On that basis, Kwiff asserted that they had followed guidance in avoiding media aimed at children.
Finally, Kwiff stated that the following statement in the article which contained the ad did not imply that the article was viewed primarily by those under 18: “do not worry if you are aged 18 or over, as we also have adult membership packages available”. This is because the page included a number of packages - Pompey Pup (up to four years old), Pompey Junior (5 to 12 years old) and Pompey Teen (13 to 17 years old). In particular, they claimed that it was not realistic that very young children would view this page, and so it followed that the article was actually for parents rather than children. Payment by debit or credit card is also required to become a Portsmouth FC member, which Kwiff claimed further demonstrated that the ad was not directed at children.
ASA Assessment and Ruling
Under the CAP Code, marketing communications for gambling must not be directed at those under 18 through the selection of media or context in which they appear.
Despite acknowledging Kwiff’s “sophisticated targeting tools”, the ASA assessed the media alongside which the ad was served for the appropriateness of the context in which the ad appeared. It appeared on a news article on the Portsmouth FC website, headlined “Join the Junior Blues” which outlined membership packages available to children and young people. Therefore, the ASA decided that the content of the page was of immediate interest to those under 18. This was emphasised by an image of a cartoon dog in the article, a version of the Portsmouth FC mascot.
While recognising Kwiff’s argument that some packages were aimed at children too young to access the content, the ASA maintained that the article also included packages for older children who may have been interested in the article “which spoke directly to them through the headline and design” and to which they may have had direct access. Additionally, there was text at the bottom of the article stating, “Click here to join the Junior Blues today – and do not worry if you are aged 18 or over, as we also have adult membership packages available”.
Therefore, the distinction between age groups and the references to separate adult packages indicated that the page was primarily directed at those under 18, serving as either a starting point for them to engage parents or relatives to purchase a membership for them or as a means for older children to directly purchase memberships from the website.
Because Kwiff’s ad appeared within the context of a webpage aimed at under 18s, it was found to be in breach of rules 16.1 and 16.3.13 of the CAP Code which state that marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect under-18s from being harmed or exploited, and must not be directed at children or young people through the selection of media or context in which they appear. The ASA ruled that the ad must not run in the article again, and that future Kwiff ads “should not be directed at those aged below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appear.”