Thursday 4 April 2019 12:08 am

Advertising watchdog used ‘child avatars’ to catch irresponsible gambling ads

The advertising watchdog has revealed it used so-called child avatars to catch gambling firms targeting children with their adverts.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it rolled out the technology, which creates profiles that simulate children’s browsing activity, over a two-week period last year.

Read more: New standards rolled out to protect children from gambling adverts

Over the trial period the avatars identified ads from 43 gambling operators. The ASA said it has taken action against five of these firms for breaking rules on targeting betting ads at under-18s.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Online ads are subject to the same strict rules that apply elsewhere and this important new monitoring capability delivers on our commitment to having more impact online.

“It’s already allowed us to spot a problem with a small number of gambling operators and take quick and effective action to ensure children are protected from irresponsibly-targeted gambling ads.”

The watchdog said the trial marks a new phase in its approach to regulation, as it looks to roll out technology to protect children and vulnerable groups online.

The ASA is exploring whether the avatars could be used for logged-in sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and said it will use the tech to monitor exposure to online ads for junk food and alcohol.

The trials are the latest development in a crackdown on betting companies amid concerns irresponsible ad campaigns are fuelling the growing problem of gambling addiction.

Read more: Advertisers hit back in row over junk food bans

Earlier this year the Committee of Advertising Practice, which writes the rules for advertising in the UK, rolled out a series of new measures to ensure gambling brands do not target children with their adverts.

Some of the UK’s largest betting firms have also agreed to a so-called whistle-to-whistle ban preventing them from airing adverts during live sporting events.