Interneting is a skill. When trying to find specific information or a helpful resource, you have to know how to phrase your query text. No matter how great we are at the Google box, though, once in a while we get an odd search result. That said, I don’t think I have ever ended up with such an improper search result as the one that resulted in the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority disciplining Casumo Services Ltd. On Wednesday, the ASA published a ruling requiring Casumo to take down an ad for its gambling app after searches for “how to unsubscribe from all gambling” resulted in said advertisement leading the list of Google results.
Lack of foresight
To reiterate, people who searched for instructions on how to unsubscribe from all gambling sites or apps saw this at the top of the page: “Welcome Bonus to New Players Casumo 100% and 20 Free Spins” and stated “Create an Account & Play now!”
Casumo told the ASA that it aimed the ad at people who search for terms like “gambling” and “gambling sites.” The company also had certain words and terms that it included with its listing that were supposed to prevent it from showing up in searches.
“However, the combination of terms used by the complainant had not been anticipated when creating the list of excluded search terms,” the ASA’s report said. “Casumo considered that ‘unsubscribe’ was associated with being removed from a mailing list, no longer receiving post or emails, cancelling a subscription or opting out of marketing.”
Casumo did not think it was possible to cover all possible searches so as to ensure its ad did not appear in every conceivable situation in which that would be merited. The company has cooperated with the ASA to make the “unsubscribe” search term inactive and thoroughly reviewed its other excluded search terms.
ASA says to get smart
The ASA appreciated Casumo’s receptiveness and willingness to address the issue, but it did not buy the excuse that it thought “unsubscribe” just had to do with marketing communications:
We considered that by searching for “how to unsubscribe from all gambling” a consumer was likely to be seeking further information about the tools needed to opt out from receiving gambling ads, or about the tools needed to self-exclude from and/or block gambling websites, with a view to potentially making use of those tools. We considered such consumers would be likely to include vulnerable persons looking to restrict their exposure to gambling outlets and ads for gambling. We noted that the Code required that marketing communications for gambling should have particular regard to the need to protect vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.
“….because we considered there was a strong possibility that vulnerable consumers seeking to prevent exposure to gambling ads and access to gambling websites might have been served a gambling ad following a search for ‘how to unsubscribe from all gambling’, we concluded that the ad had not been responsibly targeted,” the ASA added.
Casumo was not fined. It was just required to make sure that the ad no longer appears in similar searches.