The Ireland Lottery has been told by an ad standards body to be clearer over claims that "90 per cent of National Lottery money goes back into the community."
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland welcomed Lotto chiefs' vow to "to include a qualification, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money in future similar advertising" after a complaint by an Oireachtas Committee.
The television ad in question featured a shopkeeper and a customer.
When the customer placed her lotto ticket on the counter, the shopkeeper stated, "Did you know that 90 per cent of National Lottery money goes back into the community?"
The customer expressed disbelief together with other customers in the shop.
The advertisement then featured a man outside the shop telling a crowd what the shopkeeper had said.
A woman enters the shop and states that the shopkeeper was talking "gibberish" while another asks if they should call a doctor.
When the 'doctor' appeared, he used a lie detector test on the shopkeeper which detected that she was telling the truth.
On-screen text at the end of the advertisement stated, "2020 financials were 58 percent prizes, 27 percent good causes, 5 percent retailer commission".
However, a viewer complained and claimed the statement is misleading as this figure included unclaimed prize money, which was diverted to marketing and advertising of the National Lottery.
The ASAI said the Committee of Public Accounts considered the advertisement's statement that 90 percent of lottery money goes back to the community was misleading because this figure included unclaimed prize money which was diverted to marketing and advertising of the National Lottery.
Responding, the National Lottery said they believed the advertisement was accurate, independently verified, and compliant with the Code.
But that through an abundance of caution, they will qualify any future statements in any similar advertising campaign to ensure there was no opportunity for misinterpretation.
Any unclaimed Lotto prizes revert back to the operator — Premier Lotteries Ireland — after 90 days.
The Complaints Committee said a statement was warranted in this case.
Unclaimed prize money
The committee said it "noted that under the terms of the lottery licence, unclaimed prize money should be used solely for the promotion of the National Lottery, with the proviso that the promotion includes the funding of special draws and additional top-up prizes; and which may include incremental marketing and advertising of the National Lottery and/or Lottery Games".
It also said it "considered that including information in advertising, where appropriate, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money would add clarity for consumers and welcomed the advertisers' proposal to include a qualification, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money in future similar advertising".
The Complaints Committee added that the following action is now required: "Where similar claims are made on the percentage of money that goes back to the community, a qualification should be included to state that the prize money referred to may include unclaimed prizes which could be returned to the advertisers."
Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the ASAI, stated, "The latest complaints bulletin from the ASAI shows the scope of the organization across the Irish advertising industry, and the important role we have ensuring that advertisements are legal, truthful, decent and honest for all Irish consumers across all platforms.
"The ASAI fully investigates all complaints thoroughly to ensure that advertisers in Ireland are not in breach of the high standards in the ASAI Code."
PLI responded, "PLI welcomes the outcome of the ASAI's investigation of the National Lottery's '90 percent Goes Back to the Community' advertising campaign.
"PLI notes the ASAI Complaints Committee chose not to issue a formal decision upholding the complaint and rather elected to issue a Statement which welcomes PLI's proposal "to include a qualification, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money in future similar advertising".
"PLI takes its position as advertiser and its obligations to comply with both the ASAI Code and The National Lottery's Advertising Code of Practice extremely seriously."
Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan has previously queried claims that the National Lottery gives 90 percent of funds back to communities.
Thanks to dannyct for the tip.