Tombola has been pulled up by the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) after the watchdog challenged whether ads that appeared on the ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ app inappropriately targeted children.
Tombola became the official sponsor of the TV show back in 2017 after it secured a multimillion-pound deal that covered the TV show, its ITV2 spin-off, the app and all the content on the ITV hub.
The Sunderland betting company has been reprimanded for ads promoting its Tombola Arcade that appeared occasionally in the section of the app where users could watch video clips.
Another ad, which always appeared in the vote section, stated in large text: “A chance to win a share of £250,000 for free click here.’ Clicking on the ad opening its website in the user’s browser app.
The ASA questioned whether the ads inappropriately targeted children.
Tombola responded to the issue, to argue that the content in the app was part of its wider sponsorship package for the programme.
It said that Tombola, ITV and Mediacom had reviewed the age profile of the programme’s viewers before the online bingo website was confirmed as its sponsor to ensure it would be accurately targeting its desired market of adults aged 18 and over.
According to viewing figures, 91% of the viewers from the 2018 series were aged 18 and over.
Further, it argued that it had included an ‘18+’ and ‘begambleaware.org’ warning in all the ads, and the language had an adult tone.
ITV responded that the programme was broadcasted after 9pm due to the potential age-inappropriate content.
The ASA chose to uphold the ads because the CAP Code requires that ads for gambling products, such as those offered by Tombola Arcade, must not be directed to those aged below 18 years.
Although the TV show appears after 9pm, the app would be of interest to consumer who were not already viewers of the programme.
It argued that although 91% of TV viewers were over 18, there was no data available relating to the age profile of those who downloaded the app. Further, it said that a younger audience was more likely to download and engage with the app.
Thus, although the ASA acknowledged that it was unlikely that under-18s made up a disproportionately high percentage of app users, it understood that some under-18s would nonetheless have downloaded the app.
Lastly, there were no mechanisms built into the app to direct ads away from specific audiences. Therefore, it decided to upheld the ad and says it must not be used again in the same form without specific targeting to minimise the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to them.
The deal came under fire in November of last year, with The Guardian reporting that ITV has been criticised for allowing Tombola to sponsor the tv show’s app. Concerns were raised that hundreds of thousands of child fans would be bombarded with encouragements to bet.
The complaints come in the wake of a recent backlash against a surge in gambling ads.
After mounting pressure to protect children, vulnerable people and addicts from overexposure to gambling, at the end of 2018, the gambling industry confirmed plans for a voluntary ban on betting adverts during sports programs.