The UK Advertising Standards Authority this week lists iGlobal Media Marketing (a forerunner and subsidiary of the PartyGaming group) among its banned adverts following a review on a single complaint that the content was misleading and could not be substantiated.
The ASA details the case, identifying the disputed material as a magazine ad for a gaming website which stated: "WARNING! BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU WIN PLAYERS WIN MORE AT PARTYPOKER". Text in the body copy asserted: "Play for a $2m guaranteed prize pool … find out why more people love to win at PartyPoker.com*."
The asterisk was linked to small print that stated "Poker Players Research Ltd Opinion Poll, May 08, Sample size 10 000".
This ad generated one complaint, which challenged the headline "Players Win More at PartyPoker" and the statement: "… more people love to win at PartyPoker.com" as misleading and unsubstantiated.
Responding to the complaint, PartyPoker Marketing in Gibraltar said the claims were based on the results of a survey carried out in May 2008 by Poker Player Research Ltd (PPR). The purpose of the survey was to find out poker players' perceptions of the online gaming market and of poker sites in particular.
PartyGaming claimed that PPR was an independent company and the results of their research were therefore independent of all online gaming businesses. They said PPR surveyed 10 000 randomly selected, regular poker players worldwide and those respondents were selected from an initial sample of over 150 000. A ‘regular' player was defined as someone who played at least once per month.
The company gave details of the methodology used in the survey and pointed out that PPR believed it was accurate to state that their site had the easiest players to win money from. PartyGaming said it followed that, if respondents found that other players on their site were easiest to win money from, those respondents would be winning more easily and more often. They therefore believed their use of the claims in the ad was justified.
The firm pointed out that the claims were clearly referenced to the footnote which made clear that they were based on the results of a survey of 10 000 people.
The ASA adjudicator noted that PartyGaming had consulted the CAP Copy Advice team prior to publishing the ad, although the presentation of that ad was slightly different to the one eventually published. The Copy Advice team advised that, provided PartyGaming held substantiation for their claims, the ad was likely to be acceptable under the CAP Code. However, CAP had not actually seen or assessed any evidence regarding the substantiation.
The ASA therefore concluded that the survey data submitted by PartyGaming was the result of an opinion poll. "We considered that the claim "PLAYERS WIN MORE AT PARTYPOKER" was a factual claim capable of objective substantiation. We noted the ad stated "Play for a $2m guaranteed prize pool …" and considered that readers were likely to infer that they could win more money playing at PartyPoker.com than at other sites," the ASA report reads.
"We considered that, while the survey demonstrated that respondents said they had won more money playing cash games and had won more ‘Sit and Go' tournaments at PartyPoker.com, we considered that the evidence, which was based on subjective opinions, was insufficient to support an objective claim. To substantiate the claim "… PLAYERS WIN MORE AT PARTYPOKER", we expected to see comparative evidence showing that players had won more money playing at PartyPoker than at other sites. Because we had not, we concluded that the claim could mislead," the adjudicator reported.
The complaint was upheld on both counts as readers were likely to infer that the survey had shown that PartyPoker.com was the most popular of the sites included in the survey.
"Whilst we noted the survey demonstrated that respondents said they had won more money playing cash games, had won more ‘Sit and Go' tournaments at PartyPoker.com and that it had the easiest players to win money from, we considered that it did not support the claim that PartyPoker.com was their preferred or favourite site. We noted the survey respondents had not been asked to name their preferred or favourite site. Because we had not seen evidence to support the likely interpretation of the claim, we concluded that it could mislead," the advertising regulator concluded, banning any further use of the material as breaches of CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1.
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