By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

June 14, 2022 | 5 min read

An ad by Paddy Power has been vetoed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it was found to be encouraging harmful gambling behavior.

In the spot, a young man is using his phone to gamble on Paddy Power’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ game in a living room while family is present. He briefly looks away from his screen to thank his partner’s mother for bringing him a drink, before he returns to looking at the game on his phone.

A voice-over says: “With Paddy Power’s Wonder Wheel you get a free spin with a chance to win cash prizes every single day.” The man’s partner asks him: “Do you think I will end up looking like my mum?” He replies, “I hope so,” while looking at his phone, before appearing to realize what he had said was inappropriate. The voice-over concludes: “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games.” He then continues to look at the game on his phone.

Complaints were raised on the basis that the ad showed someone so occupied by gambling that they made an inappropriate remark in conversation, and challenged whether it portrayed gambling as taking priority in life and was therefore irresponsible.

It was also considered whether the ad encouraged repeated gambling in the face of a loss, and it challenged whether the claim “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” encouraged gambling behavior that was socially irresponsible.

Paddy Power rebutted the claims, saying the ad implied a commitment to family life by portraying the scene of a traditional family setting where a young man had dutifully gone to his girlfriend’s parents’ house for Sunday lunch.

It also said the scene suggested that the family had finished their lunch and were now free to do their own thing after they had all adjourned to the living room. They said this was indicated by the mother serving coffee, the father doing a crossword and the young man playing a game on his phone while he sat next to his girlfriend on the sofa. It noted the man had not left the room to play the game separately from the family or tried to conceal what he was doing from his girlfriend.

Paddy Power said it did not believe the line “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games” encouraged repeated gambling in the face of a loss.

It said the line should be considered in the context of the ad as a whole, where it referred to the fact that the young man had “stuffed it up” by making a comment to his girlfriend about her mother, that the line directly referenced a real-life example of stuffing up and did not refer to losing a bet.

In its verdict, the ASA acknowledged the family members were enjoying different activities after lunch, and while the young man’s focus throughout the ad was generally directed toward the screen of his phone, he did look up to thank his girlfriend’s mother for making him a coffee before returning to his game. However, it considered the young man then became engaged in his gambling game to the extent that he made an unwitting and embarrassing comment out loud, which was clearly not his intent, and was clearly caused by his distraction and investment in the gambling game. It noted the young man quickly realized he had made a gaffe and looked up at his girlfriend apologetically, but that moment was brief and he quickly returned to his phone to continue the gambling game and celebrate a win, while his girlfriend remained angry and embarrassed.

Although the ASA accepted it was a brief moment, because it considered most viewers would understand that distraction caused by gambling had caused an embarrassing gaffe at a family event, it therefore concluded that the ad portrayed gambling as taking priority in life over family.

The CAP and BCAP Codes state that marketing communications or ads for gambling must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behavior that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP and BCAP’s Advertising Guidance on Gambling Advertising: Responsibility and Problem Gambling also states that marketers should take care to avoid trivializing gambling and avoid the impression that the decision to gamble should be taken lightly, for example by not encouraging repetitive participation.

For these reasons, the ad is not to be repeated in its current form.

It’s not the first time a Paddy Power ad has come under fire from the ASA. As recently as March, a radio ad was deemed misleading due to unclear presentation of significant conditions.

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