Advertising Standards Authority Ruling on Postcode Lottery Upheld
ASA Ruling on Postcode Lottery Ltd t/a People’s Postcode Lottery
LONDON, U.K. (September 20, 2023) — A national press ad in the Daily Mail for People’s Postcode Lottery, seen on 1 July 2023. The top of the ad contained text in a red speech bubble that stated, “We had to postpone the wedding when Craig lost his job”. Underneath, text stated, “Couple’s wedding is back on after they scooped £62,500 on People’s Postcode Lottery” and featured a photo of a smiling couple holding a cheque that showed the amount they had won.
Further text stated, “An NHS nurse and her fiancé, who had to put their plans to wed on hold when one of them was made redundant, are celebrating after winning People’s Postcode Lottery’s Millionaire Street prize”. The ad stated the couple “had just paid the deposit for their big day when Craig heard that he was being made redundant. Now the pair are looking forward not only to their wedding next year but also to planning a honeymoon after winning £62,500 when their Nottinghamshire postcode was announced as the winner on Saturday. Angie said, ‘Craig was made redundant at the end of April. We’d booked our wedding and paid the deposit on the Monday, and by Friday he was out of a job. We had to put the wedding on hold because we didn’t know how long he’d be out of work. Awful thoughts go through your mind.’” A further paragraph stated, “Craig, who works in e-commerce and has just started a new job, said, ‘I think the coffees are going to be on me at work.’”
The complainant challenged whether the ad suggested that participating in a lottery could be a solution to financial concerns.
Postcode Lottery Ltd t/a People’s Postcode Lottery said they did not believe the ad breached the Code because it did not suggest the winners had been struggling financially before winning the prize. They said there was a degree of subjectivity as to how ‘financial concerns’ would be interpreted, and that, on balance, they did not consider the fact that the couple had been able to resume their wedding plans would be interpreted as suggesting that participating in a lottery could be a solution to financial concerns.
People’s Postcode Lottery said that the ad did not unduly play on people’s fears of financial pressures nor referred to salary or debts. They referenced CAP Guidance on responsibility and problem gambling which stated that marketing communications should not present gambling as a viable alternative to employment and that references to salary or debts in gambling marketing communications were likely to be regarded by the ASA as a breach of these rules. They said that the ad did not mention “salary or debts” and they highlighted the ad did not present the couple as suffering from financial hardship, such as being unable to pay for day-to-day expenses such as food or bills. Additionally, they believed the ad did not suggest their motivation for playing the lottery was to relieve hardship or financial concerns, and that it made clear Angie was employed throughout Craig’s unemployment. The ad also described Craig starting a new job and mentioned that he purchased coffees for his colleagues, implying that it was typical for them to be able to afford to buy small treats for each other. The ad also pictured the couple sitting outside a house, which People’s Postcode Lottery suggested that they were able to afford accommodation costs.
They stated weddings represented a significant sum of money, with the average cost of a wedding in the UK costing over £24,000 and that readers would likely recognise people wanting to get married would need to save up to afford a wedding, even though it only cost a small sum of money to be legally married. Therefore, saving for a wedding and honeymoon was an example of a significant discretionary spend, rather than indicating the couple had financial concerns that required a solution. With that in mind, they believed that the scenario presented in the ad referred to the benefits of winning a prize, which was permissible under the CAP Code. They stated it was common for gambling ads to highlight wins enabling people to buy items such as homes or cars, which without the win, would require people to save up large amounts of money. They considered it was analogous to a couple being able to afford the particular type of wedding they wanted following a lottery win. They also stated that because the couple were able to postpone their wedding further, that suggested it was a not an essential purchase.
People’s Postcode Lottery did not believe that the deposit having been paid before Craig was made redundant was suggestive of financial concerns. They compared the situation to that of potential winners having intended to purchase an expensive sports car, and that after placing a deposit, the purchase had been postponed. They believed that scenario would not suggest that the winners had financial concerns which required a solution. They considered the ad reflected a situation where a discretionary spend on the cost of the wedding and honeymoon was facilitated by the win, rather than suggesting the couple had financial concerns for which a solution was required.
The Daily Mail said they were not aware of having received complaints about the ad. They said they did not believe the ad implied that participation in the lottery was a way to achieve financial security. They believed the ad did not suggest the couple had changed their lifestyle as a result of winning, other than being able to resume their wedding plans. Additionally, the ad did not depict the couple as having quit their jobs or taken time off work, and that Craig was depicted as going back to work. They also highlighted that the spending referenced in the ad was limited to allowing the wedding to go ahead and Craig buying coffees for his work colleagues.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not suggest that participating in a lottery could be a solution to financial concerns.
The ad featured a story about a couple called Craig and Angie who were able to resume their wedding plans after winning a sum of money in the People’s Postcode Lottery. The ASA considered consumers would interpret the headline “Couple’s wedding is back on after they scooped £62,500 on People’s Postcode Lottery” as making a direct connection between winning the People’s Postcode Lottery and the couple being able to resume their wedding plans. The ad also stated that Craig had “just started a new job” which, given that the ad stated he had been made redundant in April, and the ad had been published in July, suggested that the couple had continued to play the People’s Postcode Lottery, even after Craig had been made redundant. Furthermore, we considered that the text “We had to put the wedding on hold because we didn’t know how long he’d be out of work. Awful thoughts go through your mind” implied that the couple were stressed about the repercussions of not being able to pay for the wedding after Craig was made redundant.
We understood that the couple had paid the deposit for their wedding just before Craig had been made redundant. We considered weddings were a considerable expense and that a wedding deposit likely amounted to a large sum of money which was non-refundable. We further considered that, after placing their deposit, the couple were financially committed to that decision and the wedding that they had planned before Craig had been made redundant. We considered that, along with the presentation of the couple as being stressed because they could no longer afford their wedding, had the effect of suggesting that winning the People’s Postcode Lottery was able to provide a solution to their financial concerns regarding the payment of their wedding. That was further emphasised because the couple continued to play the People’s Postcode Lottery after Craig had been made redundant.
Because the ad suggested that participating in a lottery was a way to solve financial concerns, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 17.3 (Lotteries).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Postcode Lottery Ltd t/a People’s Postcode Lottery not to imply that participating in a lottery was a solution to financial concerns.
SOURCE: Advertising Standards Authority Ltd. (ASA).Tags: Advertising Standards Authority Ltd. (ASA), People's Postcode Lottery, Daily Mail