A casino app advert has been banned after it targeted customers who googled “How to unsubscribe from all gambling”.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the ad, which promised a “welcome bonus” and “20 free spins” to new players, was irresponsible as it would most likely have been seen by “vulnerable” customers.
The watchdog received a complaint about the company, which is based in Malta, after the ad was seen as the top-promoted result for the search in May. The ad for the Casumo app also called on viewers to “create an account and play now”.
Casumo said it had targeted the advert at people searching key terms such as ‘gambling’ or ‘gambling sites’. It said it had asked that the ad be excluded from certain sensitive searches, but had not anticipated that ‘unsubscribe’ would need to be one of them.
Casumo argued that the word was more associated with people attempting opt out of marketing promotions rather than restrict access to gambling sites and apps.
Summarising the company’s defence, the ASA said: “Due to the dynamic nature of Google searches and the way in which individuals searched the internet, they considered it was not possible to cover every variation and combination that might arise.
“Given their view of the standard meaning of ‘unsubscribe’, namely being removed from a mailing list, they did not consider they had targeted the ad in an irresponsible manner.”
After learning that the ad was appearing in the results for the unsubscribe search, Casumo withdrew it from associated Google results and reviewed its list of excluded terms.
However, the ASA said it considered anyone searching “how to unsubscribe from all gambling” was looking for ways to reduce their access to gambling.
It said: “We considered such consumers would be likely to include vulnerable persons looking to restrict their exposure to gambling outlets and ads for gambling
“[The advertising] code required that marketing communications for gambling should have particular regard to the need to protect vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.”
The authority told Casumo that the ad can not appear again and that it needed to ensure future Google ads were responsibly targeted.
Following the ruling, a spokesman for Google said: “We require all advertisers to comply with local laws and regulations, including the CAP Code.
“We adhere to the ASA’s rulings and we continue to review our systems to ensure that they remain relevant and useful.”
A spokesman for Casumo said: “Casumo engaged fully with the Advertising Standards Agency throughout this process.
“Our position can clearly be seen in the response to the ASA in the publication and as stated in that publication we reviewed and adapted processes around this to ensure that we examine words that are or should be excluded from such searches going forwards.”