Sky Bingo have been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week over an editorial that featured on DailyTopLinks.com. The controversy was caused after a feature appeared with the headline “Exclusive Report: Aberdeen City McDonald’s Employee wins £296,121 on her lunch break” in capital letters followed by smaller print stating “Published on 24-01-2017 By Christine Perry, Daily News UK”.
The advertorial went on to explain that a lady called Amelia Smith turned up for work at McDonalds, just like she does every other day, without realising what would happen on her break would change her life forever. It went on to detail the hardships she had faced before winning the Sky Bingo jackpot worth nearly £300,000 whilst eating her lunch.
The Complaint Against Sky Bingo
An advertorial is essentially a combination of an advert and an editorial, written in a way to look like a fake news piece as opposed to an actual advert. The ASA challenged whether it was clear that this feature was an advertorial as opposed to a genuine a news article, blog or consumer protection update and as such, was not clearly identified as marketing communication.
Sky Bingo responded by saying that they had no involvement in the creation or publishing of the advertorial and that it had been posted by one of their affiliates (Moojah Ltd) and not themselves. By doing this, Moojah Ltd had breached their contract with Sky and the content had not been authorised by them. As soon as they had been made aware of the issue, the advertorial was immediately taken down and the affiliate made aware that it was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.
Sky Bingo went on to say that they were dedicated to making sure all marketing material was complaint and that they have an ongoing approval process and all employees involved in marketing are well trained. Their affiliates are required to comply with set advertising codes and all adverts should be approved by them before publication. On this occasion, the advertorial had not been submitted to them and if it had been, it would not have passed the approval process.
The ASA Ruling
The ASA acknowledged that Sky Bingo were not behind the advert and it had originated with a third party without their authorisation but CAP Code rule 1.8 states that the primary responsibility fell on the marketers and any other agencies involved in publishing such material. They noted that the advertorial was presented in such a way to look like a news article and that it implied it was an editorial that has been written by an independent party.
Readers would need to scroll through the whole advertorial before seeing the small print that stated, “An advertisement and not an actual news article”. The ASA noted that they would need to read the whole content before finding out it was not a genuine news article, and this line should have been published in the header, making it clear to consumers from the outset that they were reading an advert.
The complaint against Sky Bingo was upheld as the advert breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules, 1.8 (Compliance), and (Recognition of marketing communications). The advert must not be published again in its current format and Sky Bingo must ensure that all future advertorials are clearly identified as marketing communications.
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