Affiliate programmes must not be a game of chance for gambling companies

Where ads appear can cause some major (and expensive) compliance issues, as regulators seek to get their industries into line.

There’s no good excuse for getting it wrong, and it’s also an issue for those in finance, pharmaceuticals, travel and more, says Filip Petru, Director of Marketing Compliance, White Bullet…

The stringent regulations that govern how gambling is promoted to consumers are starting to catch up with companies in the sector. In recent months, we have seen the UK Gambling Commission hand out a growing number of significant fines to gambling operators for misrepresentation of gambling offers and promotions. Misleading offers can lure in consumers, tempting them to place bets and misrepresent gambling services and potential rewards. This puts vulnerable consumers at risk, and also the gambling operators which may fall foul of regulations.

And such brands will continue to risk the consequences of advertising and promotional non-compliance unless they start addressing a critical area of their marketing that’s often overlooked – their third party affiliate programmes.

Like many other advertisers, gambling companies rely on an intermediary infrastructure to reach a broader audience. And while data-driven solutions have helped alleviate issues around good ads appearing in bad places, some intermediary affiliates continue to serve non-compliant promotions that are misleading and risk the operating licences of the gambling brands they promote.

That’s why it’s essential to protect gambling brands by arming them with the information they need to unveil rogue affiliates and ensure they are compliant in their operations and their marketing.

Bad ads in good places

Many brands don’t appreciate that while their advertising may be appearing on acceptable websites, those promotions themselves can be a source of non-compliance, and this comes down to the activities of some of their affiliates.

The competitiveness of the sector and the dynamic nature of their marketing promotions means many brands are continuously onboarding a stream of new affiliates. Partners easily sign up to these affiliate programmes and integrate the brand’s assets across their own websites or apps, embedding a risk of rogue affiliates that don’t comply with country regulations or the brand’s internal codes.

Non-compliant promotions could include those that use high-risk or negative terms that then mislead consumers, or fail to include required regulatory logos and wording that would help consumers or provide guidance, such as means to avoid addiction. Others might advertise incomplete, outdated or incorrect promotions that simply confuse consumers and risk non-compliance for gambling operators regarding updated legal language.

The stakes are high

The consequences of not addressing this issue are huge. In the past 12 months, White Bullet has protected its top three gambling partners from over 160k instances of online non-compliance in heavily regulated markets, all resulting from rogue affiliate marketing activities.

With past fines of £300k and higher imposed by the Gambling Commission for misleading and non-compliant advertising, White Bullet has helped these brands to stave off very large potential financial penalties – or even the loss of their operating licence – by addressing each instance of non-compliance quickly and effectively. In parallel that has protected countless consumers.

By applying the same approach they use to prevent legitimate ads from being served on unsavoury websites or apps, gambling companies can also use near real-time data to check compliance, giving them the information they need to protect the integrity of their affiliate marketing programmes.

And affiliate marketing is not just limited to the gambling sector. Any regulated industry, from gambling to financial services, from travel to pharmaceuticals, bears the responsibility for ensuring its affiliate marketing activity is compliant – whether that means misleading advertising, incomplete ads or advertising that’s not up to scratch. It’s about fulfilling their duty to protect consumers, and not misleading them or inducing them to take potentially harmful action.

Many companies properly embrace these responsibilities and many now use solutions that deliver the critical data transparency they need to protect their consumers, their brand reputation and business viability. Only by recognising and addressing this issue can they regain peace of mind and the confidence that their affiliate network is delivering what it should.

By Filip Petru

Director of Marketing Compliance

White Bullet