Tottenham Report: Did UK’s advertising regulator “stuff up” on its Paddy Power ruling? By Hannah Gannagé-Stewart, CDC Gaming Reports June 15, 2022 at 10:00 pm Flutter’s flagship UK brand Paddy Power found itself in hot water this week with the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), which has ruled that a seemingly quite innocuous ad encourages harmful gambling. The advert for Paddy Power’s Wonder Wheel game features a young man sitting on a sofa with his girlfriend and her family. He is so engrossed in the Paddy Power mobile app that when his other half asks, “Do you think I will end up looking like my Mum?”, without thinking, he replies “I hope so”. Cue knowing chortle from the intended audience of British Millennial men for whom the “your mum” joke is a cultural staple. It is – wearingly for those of us who live among them – as hilarious to imply an inappropriate attraction to mums as it is to rudely berate them in British “lad” culture. If anything, this ad should be called out for lazy decades-out-of-date misogyny. Still, the ASA is not really looking out for that sort of thing. Rather, the regulator ruled that the portrayal of this chap’s unfortunate gaffe gave the impression that he was so involved in igaming that he became unaware of his surroundings. As such, the Paddy Power ad was encouraging gambling to the extent that you could, inadvertently, admit you have a crush on your girlfriend’s mum. No one wants that. I’m not sure inadvertently amorous declarations toward your in-laws crop up much in operators’ risk matrixes, but it’s something to consider going forward. The irresponsible message was, in the eyes of the complainants, compounded by the closing voiceover. “So no matter how badly you stuff it up, you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games.” After that, the man turns back to the game on his phone and continues playing. The two complainants argued the ads showed someone so occupied by gambling that he made an inappropriate remark in conversation, portraying gambling as taking priority in life, which is a sign of irresponsible or risky gambling. One complainant also queried the idea that the ad encouraged repeated gambling in the face of a loss, pointing to the closing voiceover, which was argued to be suggesting one should continue playing after “you stuff it up”. Paddy Power countered that the ad just portrayed a man gaming within a traditional family setting, with a mother serving coffee and a father doing the crossword. Paddy Power pointed out that the man hadn’t left the room to play the game separately from the family or tried to conceal what he was doing. The operator also highlighted that guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) says it is generally acceptable for marketing to show gambling as being interesting or entertaining to the characters portrayed, as long as it is not to the exclusion of other activities or interactions with people. Clearcast, an ad-monitoring service that checks that ads meet regulatory standards prior to broadcast, reiterated Paddy Power’s viewpoint, claiming that the scenario was relatable to the average viewer and spoke more about the young man’s character and his relationship with his girlfriend than about his gambling. However, the ASA concluded that the ad did fall foul of the guidance. “We recognised the ad was light-hearted in tone, but considered that most viewers would understand that the young man behaved in a way which was not appropriate at a family event, because he was distracted by gambling”, the regulator said. As such, the ads must not appear in that form again. The somewhat draconian ruling comes in the same week that the ASA reiterated its remit statement on the scope of its regulation across gambling communications, including websites, apps, and cross-border platforms. “Ultimately, the message for operators is straightforward – all consumer-facing social-media activity must comply with the standards set out in the gambling section of the CAP Code”, the statement said. “For consumers, this demonstrates the ASA and the Gambling Commission’s continued commitment to work together to deliver joined-up and effective protections.” Clearcast seemed to believe that the Paddy Power ad was within the safe zone. But perhaps the goal posts have moved?