The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) blocked Ladbrokes television ads for depicting gambling-related behavior that was deemed socially irresponsible.
The marketing short film, which first hit screens in April 2021, shows players in various situations as they track their betting progress while watching a football match.
In one scene, a man looked at the game on the screen and then returned to his phone, where he appeared to be placing bets, when the voice-over said, “I nod. Down to football, to the app, like a dog on the dashboard.”
In the next scene, the man at the train station is using the Ladbrokes app on his phone. The narration read, "When I bet I'm a frustrated manager. I kick every ball."
The ad then cuts to a man making foot movements while clearly upset. His actions caught the attention of a nearby man waiting at the train station.
In the final scene, the three friends are watching football together. The voice-over said, "If I get an akka, I'm very excited" as they celebrated the goal.
Their mood then changed markedly when it became clear that VAR was considering a target.
One complainant believed that the advertisement depicted people who appeared to be addicted to gambling and disputed whether it portrayed socially irresponsible gambling behavior.
In response, Ladbrokes claimed that the short went through a thorough review and signing process after careful consultation with Copy Advice CAP.
The operator, owned by Entain, suggested that the tension, excitement and mood swings in the ad were the result of the football game itself, and not the result of bets placed in relation to that match.
The British advertising design agency Clearcast also concluded that the ads did not depict gambling addicts.
However, the ASA claimed that the first person in the ad appeared to be more focused on placing bets than playing on the TV screen, and that he was able to repeat this behavior throughout the match.
It also stated that the protagonist of the second scene, after kicking the ball in frustration, was unaware of his surroundings, and that his behavior was a direct result of his betting, not football.
Finally, the ASA stated that the third scene was in conflict with the CAP code, which states that operators must not portray gambling-related mood swings as it is a known problem with gambling behavior.
The regulator said the ads showed dramatic mood swings directly related to the stress of potential winnings, not just watching sports.
As a result, the ASA upheld the complaint and ruled that the ad should not appear in its current form.
He also told Ladbrokes to ensure that future ads do not display gambling-related behavior that is socially irresponsible, including problematic gambling behavior such as social withdrawal, mood swings and gambling.