It’s been a while since I blogged about the ASA [OK, it’s been a while since I blogged about anything] but this adjudication was so head slapping that I had to do so.
It seems Channel 5 broadcast a programme entitled “My Spiral into Debt Hell” which focused on a number of people who had suffered from debt problems. One person featured in the programme had accrued a debt of £70,000 from online gambling and had lost their home, family and job as a result. Given that fact you’d probably be surprised to learn that Channel 5 decided to schedule ads for either Rush Poker Mobile or Supercasino.com during the three ad breaks in the programme and the one following it.
Channel 5 defended the approach by arguing the ad was shown after 21:00 and was aimed at an adult audience with an interest in contemporary issues, and that the online gambling story was that gambling did not solve financial problems, rather than implying gambling could be used as a solution to financial problems. A fair enough argument, and one accepted by the ASA who ruled ” We acknowledged that the ads for online gambling were incongruous with the programme content, but considered the scheduling of those ads around the programme was not irresponsible, or an unsuitable juxtaposition that was likely to cause distress or offence to viewers.”
I think the ASA were wrong in this case.
Yes, context is important, but we are still talking about a broadcaster who thought the most appropriate advertisers around a programme about debt were gambling websites. Are Channel 5 really so short of people buying ad space that thought these were the best ads for this programme? They might have been. Let’s be honest between them and payday loan ads there aren’t many others I can remember seeing that often.
Still, if I had known the person who had accrued a debt of £70,000 from online gambling and had lost their home, family and job, I think I’d have thought it a bit callous to have gambling ads in the middle of the programme which included his story.