It seems like Postcode Lottery ("PL") has mixed reviews, with many still not quite understanding how it works despite its ads constantly gracing us on TV. Following recent changes to gambling advertising and particularly, the introduction of “strong appeal to under 18s” test, the Advertising Standards Authority's ("ASA") ruling of 1st May 2024 against PL complements similar rulings in this area and serves as an excellent practical example of where the line is drawn.

The ad

The ad in question was a TV advert promoting the People's Postcode Lottery, seen on 22nd November 2023. It featured Emma Willis, a TV presenter and various references to the popular singing TV competition “The Voice”. An investigation was launched following a concern from a complainant who challenged whether the ad included an individual who is likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s. 

PL's response

PL did not believe that Emma Willis had strong appeal to under-18s. They acknowledged that she presented on “The Voice Kids,” which featured under-18 singing, but the programme itself was not of strong appeal to children, nor was she a children's TV presenter. PL provided data from Broadcaster's Audience Research Boards ("BARB") for five programmes Emma recently presented. 

PL also supplied a demographic breakdown of her social media followers. 0.7% of Emma's Instagram followers are aged between 13 and 17, whereas this number drops to 0.2% on Facebook. These total to 15,156 accounts across both platforms. 

Clearcast supported PL's view and were satisfied by BARB data and Emma's social media demographics. 

A few numbers short 

Investigating the ad under BCAP Code rule 18.5 (Lotteries), the ASA considered that it was not in breach. To reach its conclusion, the ASA assessed Emma's appeal to under-18s based on her TV personality profile, social media presence and other commercial partnerships. 

Across the years, Emma presented reality TV shows such as Big Brother, The Voice, The Circle, Cooking with the Stars, Delivering Babies, The Voice Kids or This Morning. ASA considered these programmes to be adult-oriented and unlikely to have strong appeal to children, which was supported by BARB data. 

Whilst The Voice and The Voice Kids were aired during Saturday evening slots suitable for family viewing, the ASA did not consider this to accumulate Emma's “strong appeal.” This is because these shows focused on the contestants and judges and thus, it did not lead her to be viewed as an aspirational or influential figure to under-18s. This is despite the fact that these shows drew in a number of children and attracted cover by Newsround - a BBC news programme for children. ASA's view was also supported by BARB data. 

Take home

This ruling is particularly useful because it is somewhat rare for ASA to investigate an ad and find it not to be in breach. This decision therefore comes as a useful guidance to the extent of ASA's application of the “strong appeal to under 18s” test. 

The key takeaways here are the factors considered by the ASA, such as: TV personality profile, social media presence and other commercial partnerships. This is not a one-size-fits-all method though, as the recent ruling against BetUK featuring Ade Akinfenwa (which we reported on here), tells us that further considerations can include the the BCAP guidance on gambling advertising and the individual's persona outside of their sector.  

Interestingly, the (upheld) BetUK ruling  shines a light on the number of underage followers amounting to “strong appeal." Akinfenwa has over 150,000 followers aged 13-17, which the ASA considered significant, whereas Emma has slightly over 15,000, which the regulator did not consider significant. 13-17-year-olds make up 8% and 13% of Akinfenwa's total Instagram and Snapchat followers, whereas these numbers drop to 0.7% on Instagram and 0.2% on Facebook for Emma. We have to note, however, that Akinfenwa (a former footballer) and Emma operate in two different sectors with drastically different audiences.