Sky Bingo recently had a slap on the wrist by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for an advertorial that was posted online but not actually approved by the brand itself! This seems a little unfair, although understandable.
We feel that the responsibility lies with the site that posted the advertorial because whilst Sky Bingo, or any other operator, offer a financial incentive to promote their brand, most expect this to be done within the guidelines of the CAP Code (UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing).
The Complaint About Sky Bingo
The advertorial in question was posted on a site called Daily Top Links and according to the ruling on the ASA site (which can be read here) was about Sky Bingo Casino. Some of the text read
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: ABERDEEN CITY MCDONALD’S EMPLOYEE WINS £296,121 ON HER LUNCH BREAK
It went on to tell of how ‘Amelia Smith’ went to work at McDonalds and then played at Sky Bingo in her break to win the big money. It also talked of the hardships that this fictional character had suffered before her win.
At the end of the advertorial, the following text was shown
DailyTopLinks.com is a general interest website containing articles about a wide variety of subjects. Many of these articles are what is [sic] commonly referred to as Advertorials. THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE. The term “advertorial” is a combination of “advertisement” and “editorial” written in an editorial format as an independent news story, when in fact the advertisement may promote a particular product or interest. Advertorials take factual information and report it in an editorial format to allow the author, often a company marketing its products, to enhance or explain certain elements to maintain the reader’s interest. A familiar example is an airline’s in-flight magazines that provide an [sic] editorial reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies.
The complainant challenged if the advertorial was clearly identified as a marketing communication.
Sky Bingo Respond
The minute the advertorial was brought to the attention of Sky Bingo by the ASA they contacted Moojah Ltd (the company responsible for posting it) and told them that they had breached their contractual obligations to Sky Bingo. Sky has no involvement whatsoever in creating the advertorial and had certainly not authorised it being posted. They demanded that it was removed immediately and it was taken down the same day that the complaint from the ASA.
They went on to say that they had a robust marketing approval process, and we can vouch for that having received recently a compliance letter from Sky, and ongoing training for all employees involved in the marketing of the brands.
Had the advertorial been passed to Sky for clearance, it would have been rejected.
The ASA Assessment
The ASA accepted that Sky Bingo had not approved the ad but that the CAP Code rule 1.8 (as shown below) lays the responsibility at the door of the marketers.
Marketing communications must comply with the Code. Primary responsibility for observing the Code falls on marketers. Others involved in preparing or publishing marketing communications, such as agencies, publishers and other service suppliers, also accept an obligation to abide by the Code.
It was the placement of the explanation of the article being an advertorial that caused the biggest problem because a reader would likely have read the whole piece before noticing that it were an advertorial, if they did at all.
This meant that the content was in breach of the 1.8 CAP Code above and 2.1 and 2.4 below
Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such.
Marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications; for example, by heading them “advertisement feature”.