Advertising watchdog upholds complaint against Tabcorp for “excessive” gambling in boys’ weekend ad

Article by Dominic Powell /
Smart Company /
November 22, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

A complaint against Australian gambling company Tabcorp has been upheld by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) after viewers claimed it portrayed excessive participation in gambling activities.

The advertisement depicts a man’s wife asking him about his weekend away with his friends. The man then reminisces about the fishing trip where five men are shown continuously betting and watching horse races on their mobile phones.

During the “flashback”, the men are shown burning fish by forgetting it was cooking and neglecting other activities whilst ensconced in their phones. The man then responds to his wife, claiming he “loved” the weekend away.

Multiple complainants criticised the advertisement for the depiction of gambling whilst on a holiday, one claiming it made gambling look “like a great life choice”.

“The ad implied that it would be “fun” and “sociable” to lie to your partner about gambling addiction. It glamorises gambling as a kind of pleasure that one could indulge in over a weekend, but come home unsuspected,” read another complaint.

“If someone had just such a need to get online for a whole weekend (as is implied by the ad), and then conceal that from their partner (as is implied by the ad), they would be suffering a serious gambling addiction.”

The area of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics in question with this ad is the Wagering Code.

The Wagering Code states “Advertising or Marketing Communication for a Wagering Product or Service must not portray, condone or encourage excessive participation in wagering activities”.

In a response to the complaints, Tabcorp said the advertisement was “not a depiction of a problem gambler concealing his gambling from his family”.

The company believes the advertisement does not show the characters actively engaging in gambling, and even if it did, the company believes it does not in any way “glamorise gambling”.

Tabcorp also responded by saying there was no intended deception in the character’s response to his wife, with the simple claim he he “loved it” involving “no suggestion” that he was disguising anything from his partner.

The Advertising Standards Board agreed the ad did not depict the man lying about his activities on the trip, but ultimately ruled the advertisement infringed the Code of Ethics.

The majority of the Board determined the “overall suggestion” of the ad was “wagering takes priority in all aspects of the men’s weekend”.

“The Board considered that the depiction is not strongly condoning or encouraging excessive participation, but that it is portraying excessive participation in wagering activities,” the Board stated.

Despite the Board ruling the advertisement glorifies gambling, advertising and media expert and lecturer at Melbourne University, Lauren Rosewarne, believes this specific advertisement has a different issue.

Rosewarne believes all advertising of gambling “works to glorify it”, as it gets framed in the same light as other leisure activities.

“It would be delusional to think that gambling companies aren’t trying to depict gambling as mainstream, like going to the cinema,” Rosewarne told SmartCompany.

Glorifying addiction is a “different beast”, claims Rosewarne, and she believes this advertisement does not do that.

“We have no evidence of abuse, but what we have evidence of is how technology, notably online gambling, has changed the “boys weekend” into something less social and more adolescent,” she says.

“Arguably that in itself might work as a cautionary tale.”

Tabcorp has requested an independent review of the case, continuing to claim the ad does not breach the Wagering Code. Rosewarne believes the opposition is a “symbolic gesture”.

“By not fighting this decision they’re accepting there’s something fundamentally wrong with how they advertise. They have to be seen as doing the right thing,” she says.

“They need to present themselves as though they genuinely believe that they do their part in preventing problem gambling, and that this ad is such an example.”

SmartCompany attempted to contact Tabcorp but did not receive a response prior to publication.