Sunday, 29 November 2009

Woolworths' Kids Meals / Kids Club Ad

I have lodged a complaint against Woolworths associate Australian Leisure and Hospitality group for breach of the AANA Code of Ethics and Code of Advertising to Children. Here's the ad that I believe offends that is an "Advertising or Marketing Communication directed primarily to Children that contravenes Prevailing Community Standards.


I reproduce below my submission to the Australian Associated of National Advertisers as it contains what I believe supports my complaint.

Formal Submission

Ad Details: Newspaper/Magazine - Sunday Herald Sun - 1 November 2009
Advertiser: Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group
Product/Service Advertised: Kids Meals and Kids Club
Description of Ad: Invites children to eat at certain venues and join a Kids Club at these venues
Reason for Concern: The venues listed are all pokie clubs or pubs associated with Woolworths Limited. Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group is 75% owned by Woolworths Limited. This advertisement does not disclose that children are to be accompanied by adults at these venues where alcohol is served. Furthermore, pokie gambling in these venues is an adults only form of entertainment and whilst children are not permitted within the pokie areas, they are exposed to the sights and sounds of pokie gambling in these venues. Children have been observed wandering freely in the gambling areas of these venues. Such marketing contravenes paragraphs 2.7 and 2.13 of the AANA Code for Advertising & Marketing Communications to Children, paragraph 1.2 of the AANA Code of Ethics.

If permissible, I asked to amend reference to the AANA Code of Ethics to include a reference to paragraph 2.6. I would also like to amend reference to the AANA Code for Advertising & Marketing Communications to Children to include a reference to paragraph 2.2

Objective of this complaint

Notwithstanding it is acknowledged that this promotion has concluded, the determination of the Bureau is sought. The objective, therefore, is that Woolworths and all its associated companies cease like marketing of their pokie gambling pubs to children in future.

Relevant materials

The following materials were attached:

Advertisement as it appeared in the Sunday Herald Sun - 1 November 2009. See above.

Screen capture of the top of the relevant web page of www.greatfoodgreatvalue.com.au


It is unlikely that this page will remain into December. I have also taken a capture that scrolls allowing viewing of the entire page. This is a large file that was difficult to provide by email to the Bureau by email. I created a YouTube video that you can view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_5gOkvfZMc

Flyer distributed at Woolworths' associated pokie pubs and clubs replicating the advertisement
Flyer distributed at Woolworths' associated pokie pubs and clubs for Are You A Member - Tatt's Pokies.
Press advertisement Sunday Herald Sun - 4 October 2009
Kids Clubs promotion and benefits within advertised pokie pubs

An associate and I visited the Doncaster Hotel and Cherry Hill Tavern in the City of Manningham on 18 November 2009.

We observed large banners visible throughout the eating areas promoting the venue's Kids Club. They were placed in or near the child play area.

At the Doncaster Hotel (100 Pokies where gamblers average annual loss per pokie is $176,621) I recorded the promoted benefits of joining Kids Club. "Great Prizes, Competitions, Discount Birthday Parties, Special Events, Special Offers". At the same venue, there was a large display of toys in the shape of a Xmas stocking placed by the eating service area. The entry box nearby indicated entry for Kids Club members in a draw to win this prize. A full record of these visits can be seen at http://www.pokiewatch.org/page/Doncaster+Hotel - and - http://www.pokiewatch.org/page/Cherry+Hill+Tavern.

I visited a total of 23 Woolworths associated pubs or clubs in November 2009. I have visited over 80 of their Victorian pokie gambling venues on more than one occasion. I have observed a consistent pattern of aggressive on-site marketing of these pokie gambling venues to children over a two year period. I offered to provide further information.

The harmful nature of pokie gambling

In Advertising Standards Bureau case reports for the 2005 matters relating to Unitab (Complaints 249/05 and 341/05), the Bureau found as follows:
"The Board recognised gambling as capable of being addictive and accepted that a gambling addiction could be classified as an “illness”. As such, the Board was of the view that an advertisement that promoted gambling is potentially an issue that could affect health and safety."
Except for one venue, pokie gambling is conducted in every one of the advertised venues. I offered to provide particulars for each venue.

To further reduce doubt as to the harmful nature of pokie gambling for a significant proportion of pokie gamblers; please have regard to the factual findings as to the prevalence of problem gambling by pokie gamblers in the Productivity Commission's report. A copy of their draft report released 21 October 2009 can be downloaded here: http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/gambling-2009

Exposure of children to gambling inside advertised venues

Children are exposed to the sights and sounds of pokie gambling inside these venues. Particulars can be provided for each venue if required. In all but a few venues, children are exposed to either the sights or sounds of pokie gambling in the eating areas.

In this regard, the joint communication by the Hon Jenny Macklin and all State Ministers dated 10 July 2009 should be given weight. It states under the heading of "National Principles for the conduct of responsible gaming machine activity in clubs and hotels" the following principle:
"Minors should not be allowed to gamble or be exposed to gambling areas within venues"
This is my emphasis..

Section 1.1(2)(ab) of the Victorian Gambling Regulation Act 2009 provides that an objective of the legislation is
"to ensure that minors are neither encouraged to gamble nor allowed to do so"
Woolworths have been urged but have specifically refused to restrict exposing children to pokie gambling within their associated Victorian venues.

Minors in Licensed Premises

Section 120 of the Victorian Liquor Control Reform Act provides:
"If a person under the age of 18 years-
(a) is on licensed premises or any authorised premises; and
(b) is not-
(i) in the company of a responsible adult; or
(ii) on the premises for the purpose of partaking of a meal; or
(iii) in the case of a licence under which accommodation is provided, a resident of those premises
the licensee or permittee is guilty of an offence."
It is therefore appears to be permissible for a venue to permit entry of a child into a licensed premises to have a meal unaccompanied by an adult.

Reference in the fine print of this advertisement is made to "this venue promotes the responsible service of gaming and alcohol." There is nothing in the Woolworths' associated Responsible Service of Alcohol policy that prohibits unaccompanied entry of children into their licensed premises. http://www.alhgroup.com.au/responsible_service.html. The only prohibition regarding minors is found in their Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct and that relates only to entry into the gambling room itself (paragraph 10).

The Complaint

This advertisement is directed primarily or, equally primarily to children for a "Kids Meal" and a "Kids Club". Both the "Kids Meal" and the "Kids Club" by their very characterisation have primary appeal to children. The typeface used for "Kids Club" reinforces this conclusion. In every configuration of this advertisement, press, online and in-venue the promotion directed towards children is given primary placement over the promotion to seniors. The advertisement directed primarily at seniors produced by the same company is provided so that the changed emphasis in the advertisement the subject of this complaint can be noted.

The pictures of the children are of minors under the age of 14 years.

There is no reference to adult supervision or prior adult permission in either the press advertisement, web site nor the flyer. These materials are attached to this email. As such, the advertisement undermines the authority, responsibility or judgement of parents.

The advertisement is placed in the Sunday Herald Sun. The newspaper has broad appeal to all ages. The advertisement was not placed in a section with primary adult appeal.

If a child responds positively to this advertisement, they will respectively:
  • purchase a Kids Meal at one of these pokie pubs or clubs, and
  • join the Kids Club at one of these pokie pubs or clubs
In both instances, children will be exposed to pokie gambling. In the event of the child joining the Kids Club, there is the likelihood of further promotions that intend to build the child's customer loyalty to the pokie venue. Amongst such promotions, as mentioned above, the child will be encouraged to participate in games of chance such as drawings for prizes.

As such, this advertisement to children contravenes community standards.

The advertisement is misleading as it is not clearly disclosed that these are venues where the business of pokie gambling is conducted. It is pure speculation that this omission is intentional so that the legal requirements relating to advertising of pokie gambling are avoided. Notwithstanding, such conclusion is arguable.

The marketing communication to children relates to a company that supplies alcoholic products via its licensed associated pokie hotels and clubs.

In Venue Gambling Reinforcement

In addition to the exposure to pokie gambling itself, children are being marketed gambling by other means inside these pokie gambling venues. This manifests itself in two objectively ascertainable

In such venues where the pokies are owned by Tattersall's; children will be exposed to parallel loyalty building schemes such as the "Are You A Member" scheme the subject of the promotion displayed on this blog. There are other loyalty schemes operated by Tabcorp and the venue. All have the objective of encouraging members to return to the pokie area and earn benefits by more frequent gambling. Both the Kids Meal / Kid Club and 'Are You A Member' promotions flyers have been observed being are prominently placed and re-designed as either 'table talkers', cashier handouts or posters in these Woolworths associated pokie pubs and clubs. It was not possible for me to provide a copy of the in-venue posters.
In several venues, a Kids Meal / Kids Club talker was observed on every table.

Children are encouraged to play coin operated games that emulate pokie gambling. Such games as branded "A Winner Every Time", "Win 'n' Grin", "Bonus Spin" and "Stacker". Concern about the free spin feature on pokies has been described as one of the addictive elements of pokie machines.

Manufacturer's descriptions of these coin operated games follow:
“Players play for large sized plush on one side and then watch the claw "automatically" move to the "winner" every time side if they fail to snag a good prize. Claw can be interchanged to accept candy or small beanie plush. Winner Every Time doesn't let anyone walk away empty handed! Repeat play is encouraged by the fantastic sounds and very attractive cabinet .... a guaranteed winner !”
Made by Innovative Concepts in Entertainment Inc. http://www.icegame.com/GameDetail.aspx?ProductID=40

“Stacker's concept is simple, players have to stack moving blocks 11 levels high to reach the minor Prize level. Players can then choose to collect a cheap Prize or risk it all and play on for something that's worth about 100 times the price per play - So guess what players will do? This is a brilliant game concept, LAI understands player's emotions and exploits their greed that makes them try and try again.” http://www.laigames.com/comic_panels_htm/page00.htm
These coin operated games emulate the emotions of gambling on pokies and are targeted to children. Some, unlike pokies, reward “A Winner Every Time” while another “understands player's emotions and exploits their greed that makes them try and try again”.

These machines are typically placed so that they are visible to children in the eating area. In some cases, they are placed inside the child play area. In one instance, such machines (Westside Hotel, Laverton, Victoria) were placed no farther than 8 paces from the pokie room itself.

Normalisation

The exposure of children to pokie gambling inside these venues as a result of this advertisement / campaign is the normalisation of gambling.

Professor Charles Livingstone PhD MEc GradDipEconHist BA Senior Lecturer Department of Health Social Science Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University described the health risk as follows:
"We know that exposure to excessive drinking increases the likelihood that you'll be an excessive drinker. We know that exposure to parental smoking increases the likelihood that you'll smoke. We know that exposure to parental abuse increases the likelihood that one will also inflict abuse on one's own family. This is in essence the normalisation hypothesis. As gambling becomes more normalised, we can expect it to be transmitted seamlessly, and the less normalised it is the more difficult it is to market - something that's seen as a normal part of life is a lot easier to sell than something seen as abnormal. So if the gambling businesses are able to induce families to include gambling as part of a family outing, and if the kids see that occurring - even though they're forbidden to participate until they're 18 - it is almost certainly going to make it a normal activity that kids will want to emulate. For this reason,the de-normalisation of tobacco consumption was an essential element to the disruption of tobacco promotion. The same goes for the pokies."
Please note that this statement concerns children being in these venues with adult family members and not the more extreme case where children enter on their own. I have observed unaccompanied children in an associated Woolworths pokie club.

I requested the ability to respond to any submission made on behalf of Woolworths or its associated company.

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