Sportsbet Ad Joins List Of World’s Most Controversial Ads

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Advertisements have become one of the primary sources of revenue for bookmakers and casinos around the world. Designed to create a high-recall value, many bookmakers and casinos are turning to scandalous advertisements to make their mark on consumers. [Remember Paddy Power’s “Jesus Christ Heals Italian Football” (2012) and Ladbroke’s “Climb” (2009)?]

One such bookmaker caught resorting to cheap antics is Sportsbet. Australia’s largest bookmaker has been penalized by Ad Standards, Australia’s advertising regulatory body, on the grounds of posting immoral content for their Prime Time advertisement.

The advertisement features a young man in the bathtub, engaged in manscaping, being startled by an off-screen voice telling him that gambling with Sportsbet will make him more attractive to women than the activity he was currently occupied with. The advertisement also has an off-screen husky voice referring to the young man as “Romeo,” which Ad Standards believes is an implication to masturbation. The advertisement goes on to speak of some of the best deals Sportsbet has to offer, urging the man in the advertisement (and the viewers), to bet with Sportsbet immediately.

Within days of going public, the advertisement has received over 800 complaints from viewers, players and regulatory bodies. Chief Executive of Ad Standards, Fiona Jolly believes that the bookmakers’ insinuation about the connection between sexual attractiveness and gambling is absolutely appalling. The advertisement’s message that gambling is more important than personal grooming to improving one’s sexual appeal has been deemed degrading for men and absolutely disgusting. Additionally, with Sportsbet’s advertisement airing at Prime Time on networks, there is another concern about the moral impact such an advertisement will have on young children viewing it.

But Sportsbet isn’t the first bookmaker company in the world to use sexual themes for marketing. Other gambling companies and bookmakers too have had their advertisements banned and their creative teams penalized for their unethical marketing content. William Hill’s  “Sexy Croupier” ad (2013) comes to mind here.

Ad Standards has always been open about the no-nonsense policy they follow when regulating advertising content. 2018 saw the body receiving over 6600 complaints about adverts, many of which were gambling-related advertisements. The body has already banned quite a few of the advertisements on ethical grounds and is in the process of clearing pending complaints.

Currently, the regulatory body is planning to further tighten their advertising standards to prevent such content from making their way onto the Australian screen again. 2019 may provide further insights into what these new measures may be.

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