ASA: Lockdown dynamics increase children’s gambling exposure

The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has published its updated ‘exposure report’ on age-restricted TV adverts, primarily related to the categories of alcohol and gambling.

Tracking the events of a pandemic year, ASA reports of a significant change in children’s daily routines and behaviours impacting how they engage with advertising content.

As a result of lockdown and imposed government restrictions, children found themselves spending more time at home, in which TV became a ‘more present leisure activity’.  

Reporting changed viewing habits, during the seven-week lockdown period from 16 March to 3 May 2020 – ASA revealed that children’s exposure to gambling adverts rose.

Children’s exposure to gambling content increased from 2.5 ads-per-week prior to the UK entering lockdown to 4.0 ads-per-week registered during the seven weeks of lockdown measures, observed by UK households.

Gambling’s lockdown exposure was significantly higher than the one ad-per-week registered by the alcohol category. However, ASA maintained that the increase was primarily attributed to daytime exposure of permitted bingo and lottery adverts.

Withstanding lockdown’s changes on viewing habits, ASA maintains that children’s exposure to gambling ads on TV has remained fairly stable over its 13-year period tracking age restricted categories.

It said: “Between 2008-to-2020, children’s exposure to gambling ads increased by just under a quarter from an average in 2008 of 2.2 ads per week to 2.8 ads per week in 2020. Children’s exposure to gambling ads has remained fairly stable and at lower levels over the past five years.”

ASA attributed the decline to the overall reduced exposure of total advertising registered by children since 2013 – when a peak of 229 ads-per-week was recorded – contrasted against the 104 ads-per-week recorded during 2020.

Supporting its observations, ASA referred to Ofcom’s ‘Children and Parents Media Use’ report, which underlined the accelerated behavioural change of UK households engaging with video-on-demand (VOD) services as their preferred entertainment platforms, limiting their exposure to advertising content.

Supporting the DCMS, ASA recently published its response to the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act – in which the standards body and advertising partners acknowledged concerns that gambling had become a normalised behaviour for UK audiences as a result of the market’s liberalisation. 

On advertising safeguards, ASA remarked that they had ‘limited powers on controlling the volume of gambling advertising beyond restrictions on media placements and scheduling’.

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