The ASA received a complaint regarding promotion on the 888.com website advertising an online casino game in a comic-book style format. The text beneath the ad read “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” and the images used were those of the legendary superhero. The complainant felt that the advert was irresponsible as it was likely to particularly appeal to children due to its comic-book nature.
Cassava Enterprises responded to the complaint by stating that they believed Spiderman did not just appeal to children, and that the figure has an ongoing appeal to the 18+ age range as demonstrated by recent movies featuring “comic” characters. They also said that the original Spiderman comics started in the 60s and continued to be popular throughout the 70s and 80s, meaning that players who had grown up reading the stories would relate to the images and style portrayed in the advert which was for one of their online slots.
They also added that under-18’s are not able to play for real money at 888 Casino, and that strict background checks (as well as the information new members have to provide) are carried out to ensure that underage players cannot access the site.
Despite doing their utmost to demonstrate they had not intended to target an underage audience, the ASA upheld the complaint. Whilst the ASA acknowledged Cassava’s comments and agreed that members would be unable to play the game if they were under 18, they pointed out that the advert on the website was accessible to all visitors, regardless of whether they were members. The ASA felt that although Spiderman appealed to some adults, using the popular comic-book character on the ad was likely to particularly appeal to children and young people, and therefore breached the CAP Code under rules 1.3, 16.1, 16.3, and 16.3.12.
They advised the 888Ladies parent company (Cassava) that the banner must not be shown again in its current form, and that they should not use images that are likely to appeal to under-18’s in future gambling adverts.
What do our readers think? Would you say that this was a fair decision by the Advertising Standards Authority, or do you think the regulations set on advertisements are too strict?