ASA bans two Imperial Tobacco ads, and tightens the rules on gambling

Imperial Tobacco is in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority for two outdoor ads that appeal to under 18s, and suggest that smoking is safe.

It’s not quite the return of big tobacco – these banned ads are for Rizla cigarette papers – but they show that Imperial Tobacco is willing to push its luck.

Both ads, which also appeared on Facebook, use colourful images and graffiti that the ASA said would appeal to younger people. One of the ads shows two people dressed up as locked safes, meant to illustrate that Rizla papers were kept safe inside the new packaging, but bringing a cartoonish element to the ads and introducing the word “safe” which young people use as a slang term.

The ASA’s Committee of Advertising Practice has also cracked down on another advertising evil – gambling – by tightening the rules around the sector. Young celebrities, sports stars and animated characters will be banned from gambling ads from April 1st.

As media proliferates, it’s getting harder for the ASA to keep tracks on miscreant advertisers, and funding has become an issue. At the Advertising Association’s LEAD 2019 conference recently, there were pleas from IPA director general Paul Bainsfair and Thinkbox CEO Lindsay Clay for more money for the ASA; with a particular demand that Facebook should pay its way.

Marketers of gambling and HFSS brands are among the few who still spend decent money on advertising, but the tide of public sentiment is turning against them, as obesity and addiction trouble the nation. The ASA needs all the funding it can get, to make the case for self regulation and keep government legislation at bay.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.