Cantona ad panned by A.S.A

Industry conference-goers may recall the large and rather ornate backdrop to the French gambling group Partouche's exhibit featuring ex-football star Eric Cantona richly caparisoned as a medieval king. This week the UK Advertising Standards Authority found against an advertisement from the company featuring the graphic, along with some contentious straplines.

The authorities were concerned about the suggestion that gambling provided an escape from personal problems which could be inferred from the online advertisement, commissioned by Partouche Betting. The ad portrayed Cantona dressed as a medieval king with the straplines "Bet to forget" and "Click or Regret" and were part of a GBP 2.5 million television and online marketing campaign run over the summer during the Euro 2008 football season.

The material poked some gentle fun at England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 and encouraged punters to place bets online, linking through to a Partouche website with a number of "King Eric" films where the straight-talking Cantona told punters: "Europe kicked you out of the Euro, who cares?", "Bet to forget" and "To bet or not to bet? There is no question."

The ASA subsequently acted on a complaint that the digital ad was irresponsible because it "exploited the susceptibilities of vulnerable people" and suggested that gambling could "provide an escape from personal problems". Also considered was whether the claim "Click or regret" portrayed gambling as an indispensable pastime.

Partouche Betting argued that the advertisements were intended to be a light hearted take on the disappointment of England fans, and that the campaign was only meant to be seen in the context of the Euro 2008 football championship.

Rejecting this interpretation, the ASA pointed out that none of the digital ads, whether they featured Cantona or not, explained the link to Euro 2008 and the claim "Bet to forget". The claim "Click or regret" was additionally found to imply that gambling took priority in life.

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