ASA Crackdown: Fairy Tale-Themed Online Games Too Tempting for Kids, Says British Ad Watchdog Group
Posted on: June 2, 2018, 10:00h.
Last updated on: June 1, 2018, 02:47h.
Are online betting games with titles like FairyTale Legends: Red Riding Hood likely to attract kids? The UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), seems to think so, and it has rapped the knuckles of the website responsible for promoting this — and other kid-friendly sounding designations — on the internet.
The ASA found the ads were “particularly [attractive] to young girls”.
Based on that assessment, the ASA has ordered ProgressPlay — the company promoting the games on m88.com — to permanently pull all promotional spots for the games.
Watchdog Ever After
An organization called The Campaign for Fairer Gambling complained to the ASA about the ads. The group pointed out that the themes were clearly based on popular and classic children’s stories which have been around for centuries.
The Red Riding Hood game certainly wasn’t trying to hide its fairy tale roots in any way, although it mix a few stories together. A small green fairy looks like Tinkerbell from the Disney-fied animation of Peter Pan, which has nothing to do with Red Riding Hood herself, but would certainly be familiar and appealing to many young girls.
The Tinkerbell-like character, in fact, shows up in the promos for other games as well, such as Fairytale Legends Hansel and Gretel, which has the additional kiddie lure of the story’s classic gingerbread house and gumdrop candies.
Ads for a third game — called Fairies Forest — featured fantastical fairies, mushroom houses, and anthropomorphic ladybugs.
“We considered that the physical appearance of the wolf resembled similar characters from films and TV programmes aimed at under-18s, particularly children,” an ASA statement — posted on the group’s website — explained in their decision.
M88.com — which bills itself as “Asia’s best online betting and gaming site,” but operates under the m88.casino-pp.net URL in the UK — claims that its ads didn’t feature any content that was likely to appeal to children. It also tried to absolve itself of responsibility by pointing out that a third-party software provider produced the actual games.
Still, m88.com did act quickly to address the concerns. While the games themselves haven’t been banned, they’re no longer available in a demo mode, and the company has also removed all images of fairies or “any other unsuitable character” from their website.
The ASA said that it welcomed the response and will let the matter go without any further sanctions.
It’s not the first time that ads for kids have come to the attention of the ASA. The British regulator has been busy in recent months as the UK attempts to crack down on all types of questionable advertising practices.
In 2017, the watchdog responded to an investigation in the UK’s Sunday Times, which found that many real-money games were using cartoonish characters in their ads. The story prompted the organization to send a letter to more than 450 online gambling operators, saying that many ads currently running displayed images that were “unacceptable,” and warned them to stop.
The ASA has also gone after sports betting companies like Paddy Power for being “socially irresponsible,” ordering the company to pull a spot which the regulator believed “promoted gambling at work.” And earlier this year, a TV ad by Kwiff was pulled from the airways after the ASA found that the commercial was misleading customers with the sports betting odds it was supposedly offering.
While it hasn’t happened yet, the advertising regulator has the authority to pull the license for any broadcasters that “persistently run ads that fall foul of the Broadcast Advertising Code.”
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