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UK – Ladbrokes cleared of appealing to an underage audience with The Goonies ad

By - 17 June 2021

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Facebook advertisement placed by sports betting operator Ladbrokes in March did not appeal to an underage audience with the authority ruling that its use of an image from the film The Goonies to promote a discount, would appeal to people who were children when the film was released in 1985.

The paid-for Facebook post stated ‘Play The Goonies Jpk at Ladbrokes. Get 30+ Free Spins on top of your £50.’ Below that was an image of a nautical map with superimposed text that stated ‘The Goonies’ along with some realistic-looking golden doubloons and a logo that stated ‘Jackpot King.’

The complainant, who considered that the ad’s reference to the film ‘The Goonies’ was likely to be of particular appeal to those under 18 years of age, challenged whether the ad breached the Code.

Ladbrokes said that the ad had been through their internal review process, but had subsequently been removed from Facebook, associated ad campaigns, and their ad catalogue in response to the complaint. They highlighted that the ad did not contain any imagery or characters from The Goonies. They said that the film had been released in 1985 and was not a current or recent film that would be well known to children in 2021. Ladbrokes said the post had been targeted at males and females aged 18 years old and over. Existing customers and self-excluded users had been excluded from the post’s targeting.

The ASA said: “The CAP Code stated that gambling ads must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more strongly to under-18s than they did to over-18s. The ASA understood that the ad was not seen in an age-gated environment and outside of that environment Ladbrokes had taken steps to target the ad only at those aged 18 years of age and over. However, we understood that targeting of the ad was based on an audience which had self-reported their age and where there were otherwise no prohibitions on under-18s. Therefore, the steps taken could not ensure that under-18s, who falsely reported their age, were not exposed to the ad. We therefore considered whether it complied with the Code’s requirement that gambling ads must not be of particular appeal to children.”

“We understood that when it was initially released in 1985, “The Goonies” – which involved a pirate-themed treasure hunt, and featured a cast predominantly comprised of children – had been directed at, and would have particularly appealed to, audiences under the age of 18. We understood that since its release the film had become available on streaming services, but had not seen widespread re-release in cinemas. We also understood that the film had gained cult status, particularly among adults who were children when the film was originally released. We considered that because of that, it was not a recent or current film with which children were likely to be familiar. Nonetheless, we considered the content of the film was likely to have some appeal for them. However, given its popularity among adults, we did not consider that it was likely to appeal more to under-18s than over-18s.

“We noted that while the ad featured “The Goonies” logo and typeface, it did not feature any characters or other imagery from the film. We considered that the nautical map and golden doubloons featured in the ad were not colourful, cartoonish, or otherwise presented in a way that was likely to resonate with children, and were more likely to have general or adult appeal. We therefore concluded that the ad was not of particular appeal to under-18s and had not breached the Code.”

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