Gambling charity ad banned over 'sexually coercive and abusive scenario'

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An ad for a gambling charity has been banned for featuring a male character that could be interpreted as predatory and sexually abusive.

The cinema ad for the Responsible Gambling Trust showed a young woman sitting on her bed while an older man sits in the corner delivering a monologue including the lines: "It's just a bit of fun. Remember that rush.

"The best feeling you've ever had. Your words, it was perfect, you said it was."

After the monologue, the girl goes over to the desk where the man has disappeared and a laptop is in his place, and signs into a bingo game before the screen shows the BeGambleAware.org logo.

A viewer said the male character could be interpreted as predatory and sexually abusive and complained that the ad was likely to cause offence and distress.

The Responsible Gambling Trust, which runs the BeGambleAware strategy, said the "Voices" campaign, while uncomfortable to watch, was designed to stick in consumers' minds in order to be effective in the long term.

They said the menacing character in question was a figment of his victims' imaginations, and a metaphor for the "insidious, corruptive nature of a creeping, nagging gambling problem".

The speech was crafted to convey the "deeply personal and destructive persuasiveness of addiction" and the trust argued that public awareness about problem gambling justified and outweighed any potential for offence that might be caused.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said viewers were unlikely to understand what the ad was promoting until the reveal in the final moments of the ad.

The ASA said: "We noted that the advertiser's intention was to demonstrate a woman in her bedroom battling against the urge to gamble online, but we considered that for much of the ad this purpose was ambiguous and unclear.

"We considered that, because of the lack of context, the ad reproduced a scenario of abuse.

"We considered that viewing such a scenario of abuse, notwithstanding the use of metaphor and the fact the ad was only seen before the film 'Trainspotting 2' which was about drug addiction, was likely to cause serious or widespread offence."

It added: "We also considered that viewers would find the sexually coercive and abusive scenario shocking and distressing and that victims/survivors of abuse would find the ad highly distressing and/or traumatic.

"We did not consider that the advertiser's intention justified the distress experienced by viewers generally, and the distress caused to this vulnerable group in particular.

"We therefore concluded that the ad was offensive and breached the Code."

The ASA told the Responsible Gambling Trust to avoid using similarly offensive and distressing material in their future advertising.

GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said: "We were sorry to learn that the short, hard-hitting film we created to raise awareness of the risks of a gambling addiction caused offence to a member of the Trainspotting 2 audience.

"We relied on established industry pre-clearance processes, provided by the Cinema Advertising Association and the British Board of Film Classification, which both approved the film for this adult audience. Naturally, we respect the Advertising Standards' Authority's decision, so we will not be using this film in its current form again and we apologise for causing offence to the complainant."