Upheld: ASA finds People's Postcode Lottery advert violates CAP Code

United Kingdom

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently issued a ruling on a People's Postcode Lottery advertisement that appeared in the Daily Mail on July 1, 2023. This ruling has raised important questions about how lottery advertisements should be presented to the public, particularly in relation to financial concerns. In this article, we will explore the details of the case, the ASA's decision, and its potential implications for lottery marketing.

The Advertisement

The People's Postcode Lottery advertisement featured a heartwarming story of a couple, Craig and Angie, who were able to resume their wedding plans after winning £62,500 on the People's Postcode Lottery. The advertisement prominently displayed the text, "Couple’s wedding is back on after they scooped £62,500 on People’s Postcode Lottery" alongside a photo of the delighted couple holding a cheque for their winnings.

The ad further noted that the couple had recently paid the deposit for their wedding when Craig received news of his redundancy. However, their fortunes changed when their Nottinghamshire postcode was announced as the winner, granting them £62,500. Angie, explained, "Craig was made redundant at the end of April. We'd booked our wedding and paid the deposit on Monday, and by Friday, he was out of a job. We had to put the wedding on hold because we didn't know how long he'd be out of work, and you can't help but worry." Craig, who had just started a new job, humorously added, "I think the coffees are going to be on me at work."

A complaint was lodged with the ASA, arguing that the advertisement suggested that participating in the lottery could be a solution to financial concerns. The complainant contended that the ad played on people's fears of financial pressures.

People's Postcode Lottery's Response

People's Postcode Lottery defended their advertisement, stating that it did not imply that the winners had been struggling financially before their win. They argued that there was a degree of subjectivity as to how ‘financial concerns’ could be interpreted and on careful consideration, they did not believe that the fact the couple resumed their wedding plans would be seen as a suggestion that participating in a lottery could resolve financial issues.

The People’s Postcode Lottery argued that the ad did not exploit people’s fears related to financial pressures or make any references to salaries or debts. They referred to the CAP Guidance on responsibility and problem gambling, which states that marketing should not present gambling as a viable alternative to employment and cautions against mentioning salary or debts in gambling marketing communications, as this would likely breach ASA rules. They pointed out that the ad did not explicitly mention "salary or debts" and argued that it did not depict the couple as facing financial hardship, such as struggling to cover everyday expenses like food or bills. Additionally, they believed the ad did not suggest that the couple's motivation for playing the lottery was to alleviate financial hardship, and it explicitly mentioned Angie's employment during Craig's period of unemployment. The ad also depicted Craig starting a new job and buying coffees for colleagues, implying that they were in a position to afford small indulgences. Furthermore, the ad showed the couple outside a house which People’s Postcode Lottery suggested that they were able to afford accommodation costs.

People’s Postcode Lottery contended that weddings typically involve substantial expenses, with the average cost of a wedding in the UK exceeding £24,000. They argued that readers would likely understand that individuals planning to get married would need to save up for it, even if the legal marriage itself requires a smaller sum. Therefore, saving for a wedding and honeymoon was an example of significant discretionary spending rather than an indication of financial concerns requiring a solution. In this context, they believed the ad portrayed the benefits of winning a prize, which was permissible under the CAP Code. They also noted that it was common for gambling ads to highlight how wins enable people to purchase items like homes or cars that would otherwise require significant savings. They likened this to a couple being able to afford the specific type of wedding they desired after winning a lottery. They also pointed out that since the couple could postpone their wedding further, it indicated that it was not an essential purchase.

According to the People’s Postcode Lottery, the deposit paid before Craig's redundancy did not suggest financial concerns. They likened this situation to potential winners who had intended to buy an expensive sports car but postponed the purchase after placing a deposit. They argued that such a scenario would not imply that the winners were dealing with financial concerns necessitating a solution. They contended that the ad depicted a scenario where the lottery win facilitated discretionary spending on the wedding and honeymoon rather than implying that the couple had financial issues requiring resolution.

Daily Mail Response

The Daily Mail stated that they were not aware of any complaints regarding the advertisement. They maintained that the ad did not suggest lottery participation as a route to financial security. They also argued that the ad did not convey significant lifestyle changes for the couple, except for their ability to resume wedding plans. Furthermore, the ad did not depict the couple as quitting their jobs; instead, it showed Craig returning to work. Their spending, as highlighted in the ad, was limited to facilitating the wedding and Craig occasionally buying coffees for his colleagues.

The ASA Ruling

  • The CAP Code prohibits marketing communications from implying that participating in a lottery can resolve financial concerns.
  • The ASA interpreted the headline, "Couple’s wedding is back on after they scooped £62,500 on People’s Postcode Lottery," as directly linking the lottery win to the couple's ability to continue their wedding plans.
  • The ad mentioned Craig had "just started a new job," which, considering his earlier redundancy in April and the ad's publication in July, suggested ongoing participation in the lottery.
  • The text, "We had to put the wedding on hold because we didn’t know how long he’d be out of work. Awful thoughts go through your mind," implied the couple's stress about affording the wedding after Craig's job loss.
  • The couple had already paid a non-refundable wedding deposit before Craig's redundancy, committing them financially to their original wedding plans.
  • The overall presentation, along with the couple's stress, implied that winning the lottery could resolve their wedding-related financial concerns.
  • The fact that the couple continued to play the lottery after Craig's job loss reinforced this suggestion.
  • Consequently, the ad was found to violate CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 17.3 (Lotteries) as it implied that participating in the lottery was a solution to financial problems.

Next Steps

The following are key takeaways :

  1. This ruling by the ASA has significant implications for the marketing of lotteries. It clarifies that lottery advertisements must not suggest that participating in a lottery could be a solution to financial concerns. Lotteries, like all forms of gambling, must be promoted responsibly, avoiding any suggestion that they can alleviate financial difficulties.
  2. Lottery operators and advertisers should carefully review their marketing materials to ensure compliance with this ruling and the CAP Code. It's crucial to strike a balance between promoting the excitement of winning and ensuring that advertising messaging is clear and does not inadvertently suggest that playing the lottery is a means to resolve financial hardships.
  3. Timing and context of advertisements are important to avoid conveying unintended messages. In this case, the reference to a new job raised concerns when contrasted with the timing of redundancy.

The ASA's ruling on the People's Postcode Lottery advertisement serves as a reminder that responsible advertising is of paramount importance in the gambling industry, including lotteries. Advertisers must avoid creating the impression that participating in a lottery can solve financial concerns or alleviate hardship. This ruling emphasises the need for vigilance and careful assessment of the messaging in lottery advertisements to protect consumers and maintain industry standards.

Co-authored by Bronagh Miller