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Medium: Online - App
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 3.2, 3.3, 7.2, 7.6, 10.16, 10.17
A banner advertisement in the Livescore app promoted an offer for new users of an online betting company. The advertisement “Bet €10 & Get €50 in Free Bets”
The complainant objected to the advertisement on the grounds that it was served to an account registered to an under 18’s user. The complainant stated that they had set up a profile for their underage son and upon doing so, confirmed that they were under 18. Despite this, they advised, the app still served gambling advertisements to the under 18’s profile. The complainant also stated that they raised this concern with the advertisers.
The advertisers’ stated that they took their obligations with regards to socially responsible marketing and the protection of minors and vulnerable persons extremely seriously. They said that particular care was taken to ensure their advertising did not appear in any media or context directed at those aged below 18 years or specifically intended for children.
They stated that before being authorised to promote their brand, all affiliate marketing partners were required to comply with the requirements of applicable gambling and advertising regulations, including those which ensured that adverts were not directed to users under the age of 18.
They confirmed that LiveScore was a member of their affiliate marketing programme and had agreed to these terms.
They stated that it was their understanding that any visitor to LiveScore’s website received a pop-up asking them to confirm their age, and that LiveScore implemented audience controls to prevent their advertisements from being served to any user who identified themselves as under 18.
The advertisers noted that in reviewing the complaint they were unable to see the user’s age identification status from the screenshots provided. They said that they had however investigated the matter separately and confirmed that they had not been able to replicate a scenario in which their advertising was displayed to users identified as under-18. In support of their findings, they provided screenshots which they stated demonstrated how advertisements served in the mobile app or browser were adjusted according to the user’s self-declared age. They said that in the case of their investigation, theirbanner advertisements did not appear for under-18s.
They advised that they were continuing to investigate the matter and had contacted LiveScore directly to verify the details in the complaint and to confirm that appropriate and effective tools were in place to ensure that their advertisements were not served to underage visitors.
LiveScore stated that upon receipt of the complaint, they immediately conducted a thorough investigation into the promotion of advertisements in Ireland via their App, the advertisement, and their compliance with the requirements of the Code. They advised that they verified the details provided in the complaint and cross-referenced them with their advertising records, audience targeting, mechanisms, and customer service interactions.
They stated that they were committed to meeting their regulatory and legal obligations in respect of marketing advertised on their site in every jurisdiction and said that they pride themselves on their strong processes to ensure compliance with advertising guidelines.
LiveScore advised that at the time of the complaint, to ensure compliance with the Code and that unsuitable or harmful advertisements were not directed at users aged below 18, they undertook various safety measures.
They stated that LiveScore was a market leader in the European sports media industry having applied age-gating to their App and associated website. They stated that they asked all users in Ireland to indicate whether they were 'Under 18' or 'Over 18' when they first accessed the App, so that they could ensure minors were not served any advertising content from inappropriate partners, such as gambling or alcohol advertisers. They said that their age-gating mechanism was validated by Analytics data which supported their audience segmentations of self-declared children and adults.
LiveScore explained that when a campaign was set up by an advertising operations executive, they would double check that the advertising targeting was limited to the correct territory, platform, and apply any required age gating for advertising of adult content (such as gambling). They advised that this process had subsequently been improved, as explained further on in their response.
They said that when an App user selected "Under 18" on their age - gate, they were excluded from receiving any age-inappropriate advertisements on their App, including any ads served via LiveScore's integration with their ad manager software. They stated that it was apparent from their investigation that as part of the Ad’s campaign, a manual human typing error in their ad manager software led to the Ad's campaign being incorrectly setup for the period of 1 November 2022 to 1 December 2022 (the "Error Period"). They explained that instead of setting two service rules for the Ad with the word "AND" between the rules, the erroneous connector "OR" was used, which meant that their ad manager software was automated to apply either one rule OR the other rule to the Ad, instead of applying both rules concurrently (the "Error").
LiveScore stated that upon analysis, it was apparent that the Error resulted in the Ad being shown to a limited set of App users who had selected the "Under 18" option at their age-gate. They noted that while regrettable, only a small proportion of advertisements (including the Ad) were served incorrectly due to the Error, being 0.057% of all advertising impressions on LiveScore in Ireland during the Error Period. LiveScore stated that the Ad affected by the error was removed from the App when a new campaign was setup for the advertiser and new overriding campaign Rules were manually applied.
LiveScore stated that regarding additional safety measures, since January 2023, and before they knew of the complaint or error, they had implemented a new quality assurance process. They stated that these new measures meant that when a campaign was being set up by an advertising operation executive and they carried out a self-check of the campaign parameters, an additional team member would double check the campaign, including all rule sets, prior to its activation. They stated that this secondary independent check would help avoid any mistakes such as this error being made in future campaign set-ups. Additionally, they said that they had set up a new daily report in their Ads Manager software to be reviewed by additional team members which detailed whether age-gated campaigns were only being delivered to their adult audiences.
In conclusion LiveScore stated that they regretted the error and were confident that they would prevent such mistakes from happening again in future. They also stressed that they were committed to the highest standards to advertise in a safe and compliant way, and in accordance with the Code in Ireland.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and both the advertisers and LiveScore’s responses.
The Committee welcomed that LiveScore had implemented additional safety measures regarding internal procedures on age restricted advertising.
They noted LiveScores comments regarding a human typographical error in their ad management software which led to the advertisement being served to under 18-year-old App users. The Committee referred to the requirements of the Code that marketing communications addressed to children should not feature products that are unsuitable for those children (7.06(a)) and expressed concern that gambling advertising was served to users identified as under the age of 18. Considering this, the Committee found the advertisement to be in breach of Code Sections 7.06 (a), 10.17 (g) and (i).
The Committee reminded all parties to ensure that advertising for products unsuitable for under 18’s is not served or targeted to them.