Ladbrokes and its agency, M&C Saatchi have responded with remarkable speed to the Advertising Standards Authority ban on two of its television ads after a single complaint from the public (see previous InfoPowa report).
The duo placed a cheeky full page print advert in The Sun newspaper, which will also appear in The Racing Post, as a mock appeal to find the sole complainant against its expensive television adverts, showing a photoID kit head under the headline "Missing - a funny bone."
The advert explains the company's tongue-in-cheek desire to find the complainant to give him a hug and a bunch of flowers to say sorry and can be viewed here: http://offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/NewsAttachments/MAC/ladbrokesmissinglarge.jpg
On a more serious note, Ladbrokes has lodged an appeal with the Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications to review the decision, believing that it was an incorrect application of the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code and effectively constitutes a ruling against using humour in gambling advertisements.
John O'Reilly, the managing director of Ladbrokes Remote Betting and Gaming, said: "Ladbrokes fully supports the code of practice relating to gambling advertising but this ruling is an example of political correctness going too far. The idea that an advertisement using absurd humour is somehow going to make gambling dangerously appealing is nonsense.
"We don't believe that banning humour is what the code was designed to achieve."
The betting company ran two TV ads, described as "pastiches of documentary-style filming", telling the story of two adrenaline junkies who came to a fatal end after taking one risk too many.
One of the ads featured a fictional eyepatch-wearing great white shark operator character called Willem Snyman, described as a "mentor and oceanic guru", who talked about the demise of a shark-diving student. The character recounts how his student's appetite for risk and thrills saw him attaching bacon and sausages to his wetsuit and diving into shark infested waters wearing a seal suit, with predictably fatal results.
The other ad was narrated by the fictional J "Snake Eyes" Kowalski, a pilot and skydiving pioneer, who told viewers about the demise of a skydiving pupil who sought the adrenalin rush of using smaller and smaller parachutes until one day he jumped with just a potato crisp packet, again with fatal consquences.
Both ads ended with the line "If only he'd seen Ladbrokes Casino.com it would have quenched his thrill buds."
When the ASA banned the ads, Ladbrokes and its agency pointed out that the humour was "deliberately exaggerated and ridiculous" and that the cautionary nature of the stories "actively encouraged caution and moderation over extreme behaviour and recklessness".
In April last year online gambling companies Paddy Power and Intercasino became the first gambling companies to have campaigns banned by the advertising regulator.