New television campaign gets the thumbs down from advertising regulator

Marketing media reports this week indicate that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Ladbrokes television campaign for online casino action because it links gambling with excessive risk taking.

Two ads are involved, both created by M&C Saatchi and featuring "mentors" Willem Snyman and J "snake eyes" Kowalski regaling viewers with tales of their students' thrill seeking exploits.

In one presentation, a man is seen taking increasing risks while diving with sharks, including attaching raw meat to his wet suit and wearing a seal costume. The second advert featured a "sky diving pioneer" using an empty potato crisp packet as a parachute.

Both ads finished with the punch line: "If only he'd seen Ladbrokes.com, his thrill buds would have been quenched."

ASA adjudicators felt that the ads "portrayed gambling in a context of toughness" and linked it "to excessive risk taking and reckless behaviour".

Ladbrokes and M&C Saatchi responded that the advertisements were intended to be humorous in the context of "unbelievable, humorous and fantastical action" which set straight any idea that the pupils displayed toughness or daring. Even when taken out of context, the ads were of a cautionary nature because the narrators regretted their students' reckless behaviour, and the moral underlying the stories was that the protagonists should have "quenched their thrill buds" in a less reckless way.

Separate complaints that the ads could lead to financial loss by condoning or encouraging gambling in a "socially irresponsible" way and "exploited the susceptibilities and aspirations of vulnerable people" were not upheld.

The watchdog ruled that the ads should not be broadcast again their current forms.

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