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Health Lottery 'loser' advert banned by Advertising Standards Authority

Watchdog says the advert was irresponsible and likely to exploit vulnerable people, but lottery argues it was sufficiently 'light-hearted'

The Health Lottery advert
The Health Lottery advert

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a television advert for the Health Lottery was irresponsible because it pressured people to play and exploited vulnerable people.

The advert, broadcast late last year to promote the lottery’s midweek draw, featured various people saying "I’m a loser". A couple are shown sitting outside a house and the man says: "We lost a brand new kitchen and a conservatory." A woman is shown sitting in front of a picture of a beach and says: "I lost a holiday to Barbados." A man says: "My Saturday numbers came up on a Wednesday."

The ASA received 15 complaints about the advert, 14 of which said it was irresponsible because it suggested peer pressure to participate in the lottery or disparaged abstention. Eight of the complaints said it was irresponsible because it exploited vulnerable people.

The ASA adjudication, published today, says the advert breached rules around social responsibility.

"Some of the characters appeared to be distressed or frustrated by their lack of participation in the Wednesday draw, while one shouted ‘loser’ directly at viewers," it says.

"We considered that the term ‘loser’ was a pejorative term and that, in the context of the ad, was likely to exploit the susceptibilities and credulity of vulnerable people by suggesting that if they did not participate in the draw they had somehow failed."

The ASA ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form.

It also said the Health Lottery must ensure its future adverts do not "disparage abstention from participating in lottery draws" and do not exploit the "susceptibility and credulity of vulnerable people". 

In response to the ASA, the Health Lottery, which was launched by the media owner Richard Desmond in 2011 and is made up of 51 society lotteries operating under its brand, said that the purpose of the advert was to raise awareness that the Wednesday draw was a new product for which a new ticket purchase was required and not a "second-chance" draw.

The lottery said it did not believe it exploited or took advantage of vulnerable people.

Clearcast, which approves TV adverts, said the characters in the advert were portrayed as losers, but the treatment was "sufficiently comedic and light-hearted" not to be taken at face value and did not use peer pressure or disparage abstention.

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