A William Hill advert that invited users of dating app Tinder to bet their way out of the “friend zone” has been banned for linking gambling to sexual success.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has upheld a string of complaints against gambling firms this year, said the message breached the code governing the promotion of gambling.
The advert read: “Stuck in the friend zone? You won’t be for much longer if you use this Cheltenham free bet offer” and included a link to download the company’s smartphone app.
Being “stuck in the friend zone” is a term used to describe a situation in which one person wants to start a relationship with someone who prefers to keep things platonic.
Gambling adverts must not “link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness”, according to the UK code of non-broadcast advertising, which is overseen by the ASA.
In its response to the regulator, William Hill claimed it intended to imply that by signing up to the offer, customers would be taking their relationship with the company to the next level, rather than becoming more attractive to potential sexual partners. It has since removed the advert.
“Upon reflection, [William Hill] agreed that it had the potential to be interpreted differently, but it was not their intention to link gambling to sexual success,” the ASA said. “They had removed the ad and were in the process of conducting a full review of existing content on the platform.”
Tinder told the ASA it had reviewed the advert to judge whether it was socially irresponsible, offensive or aimed at minors and did not find that it was.
The ASA said it upheld the complaint because it “suggested that those who gambled would be more likely to develop a friendship into a sexual relationship and therefore linked gambling with sexual success”.
William Hill said: “We took on board the ASA ruling and immediately removed the advert in question.”
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The ASA has taken a tougher stance on gambling adverts in recent months. An advert for a Monopoly-themed online casino game was banned by the regulator over concern that use of the board game’s familiar cartoon mascot – Rich Uncle Pennybags – might appeal to children.
Last month it also banned a Paddy Power TV campaign featuring the brother of Ryan Giggs, the former Manchester United player and current manager of the Welsh national team, for glamorising gambling as a route to a wealthy lifestyle.
In April, the regulator caught five gambling firms, including Aston Villa’s sponsor Unibet, breaking strict rules that ban them from targeting children with online betting ads.