ASA bans Actegy press ad and TV ad

  1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today (11 September 2019) banned two ads from Actegy Ltd: one in the national press, the other on TV.
  2. The ASA ruling: https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/actegy-ltd-G17-1016264.html.
  3. I recently revealed Actegy’s multi-million-pound tax dispute with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) goes on (see 27 August 2019 post).
  4. Sir Ian “Beefy” Botham, the former England cricketer and charity walker, also continues to front ads for the company. “Beefy” didn’t appear in the ads banned today by the ASA, though.
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Too Quek to judge?

  1. Another column from “Olympic hockey hero” Sam Quek in the Daily Mirror newspaper today (9 September 2019) – and another ad for Muhdo at the bottom. (Daily Mirror 9 Sep 2019 p49) Again, her commercial relationship with the firm isn’t disclosed (see previous post).
  2. This week Ms Quek finishes with some predictions for the NFL (American football) – as befits someone who fronts ads for a gambling company. Talking of which, there she is on the next page, with fellow Mirror columnist Jermaine Jenas, in a full-page ad for said company. (Daily Mirror 9 Sep 2019 p50)
  3. Was I too Quek to judge after last week’s column? I don’t think so.

Sam Quek and Jermaine Jenas in the Mirror

  1. Olympic hockey gold medallist Sam Quek has begun writing a column in the sports section of the Daily Mirror newspaper. Ms Quek also fronts large ads for a gambling company within the paper. Former England footballer Jermaine Jenas, too, has just started a column there – and appears with Ms Quek in the same ads. Cosy.
  2. The pair, who both also work for the BBC, advertise The Pools within the sports pages. (Daily Mirror 6 Sep 2019) This is the same gambling company chief sports writer Andy Dunn and other Mirror journalists promote there (see 13 January 2019 post). Meanwhile, bookie William Hill continues to sponsor football pundit Robbie Savage’s column on Saturday. There are sports editorial tie-ups with other gambling companies as well.
  3. It isn’t just gambling. On 20 June 2017, I revealed the Mirror had published a health-related ad featuring Dr Miriam Stoppard opposite her health column. As I said, the ad risks undermining both her and the newspaper’s editorial integrity.
  4. What’s more, there was an ad for something called Muhdo at the foot of Ms Quek’s latest column on 2 September 2019. (Daily Mirror 2 Sep 2019) Guess what? Ms Quek is an ambassador for the firm, according to its website (screen shot in Figure 1). Her column gave no indication of her commercial relationship with Muhdo, though.

    Figure 1. Sam Quek is an ambassador for Muhdo: company website at 7 September 2019

  5. When it comes to blurring the separation between editorial and advertising, new columnists Ms Quek and Mr Jenas are in good company at the Mirror, of course. Fellow columnist Heather Mills, for example, continues to plug firms, without disclosure of interest (see previous post).

Mirror columnist Heather Mills saves the plug for last

  1. On 5 September 2019, Heather Mills expounded upon the alleged benefits of soy in her latest “Live healthy with Heather” column for the Daily Mirror newspaper. (Daily Mirror 5 Sep 2019)
  2. Amazingly, Ms Mills managed not to plug any companies – until her last sentence. There she wrote: “If you try VBites.com’s V-Mega burger you won’t look back.”
  3. Presumably it was only lack of space that prevented Sir Paul McCartney’s former wife telling readers who owns VBites Foods – her.
  4. You might think after repeated exposure on this blog, which was picked up by Private Eye magazine, Ms Mills might moderate her plugging of firms, without disclosure of interest (see 23 August 2019 post and references therein). Nope.

Airports, booze and gambling: Political lobbying by GambleAware

  1. GambleAware (GA), the UK’s leading problem-gambling charity, shares its political lobbyist with the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for UK airports. Such an arrangement is problematic for the charity for three reasons. First, UK airports host gambling businesses and thus have a direct interest in gambling. Second, unlike on the high street, passengers at UK airports can buy and drink alcohol airside at any time of day. Therefore, there’s an increased risk of alcohol-related problem gambling. Meanwhile, the latest GA “Bet Regret” ad campaign directly addresses the role of alcohol in problem gambling. Third, AOA is against licensing restrictions at UK airports.
  2. Communications agency Atlas Communications Partners Ltd (trading name: Atlas Partners) acts as both PR agency and political lobbyist for GA (see 27 February 2017 post). AOA, too, is an Atlas Partners client, the latest public affairs register at the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) website shows.
  3. AOA itself also appears on the register as a political lobbyist. So I asked Henk van Klaveren, head of public affairs and PR at AOA, in an email why his organisation is a client of another political lobbyist. Mr van Klaveren wrote by reply: “At times, we work on campaigns that require more resource than the small AOA team can provide or that involve working with other trade associations or organisations in the aviation sector. In those circumstances, we use external agencies to support that work. In this case, Atlas Partners supports the AOA and NATS with our communications campaign on airspace modernisation, Our Future Skies. The primary focus of this campaign is media and wider PR work, but as it involves occasional meetings with government stakeholders, Atlas Partners put the AOA down as one of its clients on the Public Affairs Board register to ensure full transparency.”
  4. At October 2014 there was a Coral betting shop at London Gatwick Airport, North Terminal, according to a map of that date that was available on the airport website until I brought it to the attention of both Mr van Klaveren and Gatwick. (gatwick_north_v7) The shop is no longer there, however. I asked Mr van Klaveren via email for AOA’s position on gambling and, in particular, betting shops at UK airports. He responded: “UK airports are very much like high streets and provide a variety of services to the travelling public, including a range of shops, bars and restaurants. As each airport knows best what their passengers would like to see in the terminal, the AOA believes individual airports are best placed to work with retail providers to deliver their diverse offer and is not directly involved [sic] these discussions.”
  5. As I say, the Coral betting shop is no longer at Gatwick. (Neither bookmaker nor airport replied to emails asking when the shop closed.) Nevertheless UK airports host gambling businesses, as the Gambling Commission public register of gambling premises reveals. Playnation Limited, for example, has gambling premises at the major UK airports, including Heathrow and Manchester. Inspired Gaming (UK) Limited is another gambling firm, among several others, with sites at UK airports.
  6. GA is the UK’s leading charity committed to reducing gambling-related harm. I first wrote about GA on 27 February 2017, when I described problems with the charity that undermine its independence and credibility. To its credit, GA has since made improvements: it now discloses on its website the size of the individual donations it receives from gambling companies, for example. When back in February 2017 I suggested the charity do this, GA rejected the suggestion (see 27 February 2017 post). Problems remain, however: see its decision last year to work with The Jockey Club’s advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, which is disappointing because of the agency’s conflict of interest (see 21 July 2018 post).
  7. GA’s independence, or not, from the gambling industry has always been a problem for the charity and its credibility. Yet UK airports have a direct interest in gambling and its regulation, as we have seen. For this reason, it’s surely inappropriate for GA to share its political lobbyist with AOA.
  8. There’s a second reason GA should have nothing to do with AOA: airport drinking. Drunk and disruptive passengers can cause serious disruption to flights, including cancellation or diversion to another airport, once airborne. Unlike on the high street, passengers at UK airports can buy and drink alcohol airside at any time of day. Drunk and disruptive passengers demonstrate alcohol can produce bad behaviour. Alcohol can be a factor in problem gambling, of course. Indeed, the latest M&C Saatchi “Bet Regret” ad campaign for GA directly addresses the dangers of gambling while drunk. A GA TV ad finishes with the question: “A punt after a pint?” Which it answers: “You’ll Bet Regret It”.
  9. Clearly, sale of alcohol at any time of day increases the risk of alcohol-related problem gambling. Gambling is more accessible than ever: smartphone users can gamble anywhere. Airport drinking isn’t problematic only because of drunk and disruptive passengers.
  10. Then there’s AOA’s official stance on airport drinking: it’s against licensing restrictions at member sites. Thus AOA is for maintenance of the status quo: access to alcohol for passengers at any time of day – which makes alcohol-related problem gambling more likely.
  11. When asked for comment, Marc Etches, chief executive of GA, said in an email about the fact UK airports host gambling businesses and thus have a direct interest in gambling: “We understand that none of Atlas’ work [for AOA] involves talking to government stakeholders about anything other than the future of the UK’s airspace so we do not consider that such an arrangement is problematic as you state.”
  12. On airport drinking and gambling, Mr Etches wrote: “The Bet Regret campaign is purposefully not directed at those who are suffering gambling disorder, rather it is intended as a preventative public health campaign aimed at encouraging regular sports bettors to think twice about gambling when drunk, bored or chasing losses. We would extend the same message to all those who participate in gambling wherever they may be situated.”
  13. Finally, in response to the fact AOA is against licensing restrictions at UK airports, the chief executive of GA said in an email: “I have no knowledge of the position of the Airport Operators Association in relation to licensing restrictions at UK airports.”

Another year and Actegy’s multi-million-pound tax dispute with HMRC goes on

  1. On 20 August 2019, Actegy Ltd finally filed its 2018 accounts at Companies House. Made up to 30 June 2018, these were due by 31 March 2019. The lateness of submission is no surprise: the firm has consistently failed to file its accounts on time from and including the 2010 accounts (see 2 October 2018 post).
  2. No surprise, too, the latest accounts reveal Actegy’s multi-million-pound tax dispute with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) goes on (see 2 October 2018 post). When will it be resolved, if ever?
  3. The company first came to my attention in 2016 as a result of its ads in national newspapers featuring Sir Ian “Beefy” Botham, the former England cricketer and charity walker. Sir Ian still appears in its ads in the national press, as the ad in The Guardian today (27 August 2019), for example, shows.
  4. Beefy” was a prominent Brexit campaigner at the 2016 EU referendum (see 26 November 2016 post). Actegy’s multi-million-pound tax dispute with HMRC began before the referendum, as did Sir Ian’s promotional activity for the firm. Patriot “Beefy” clearly remains happy to endorse a firm in a long-lasting multi-million-pound tax dispute with HMRC, as well as one that’s a persistent late filer of accounts.

Mirror columnist Heather Mills plugs yet another firm, without disclosure of interest

  1. On 22 August 2019, Heather Mills wrote about chocolate and cocoa powder in her latest “Live healthy with Heather” column for the Daily Mirror newspaper. (Daily Mirror 22 Aug 2019)
  2. There she promoted Onist, a vegan food company. But Ms Mills omitted to mention a relevant interest: she has invested in Onist via her company VBites Ventures Limited.
  3. I first exposed Ms Mills using her Mirror column to plug firms, without disclosure of interest, on 16 November 2018. Private Eye magazine reported my Heather Mills exposé (see 29 November 2018 and 1 December 2018 posts).
  4. On 13 December 2018, I revisited the issue, following Ms Mills’ column that day. Private Eye, too, has recently mentioned it again. Nevertheless Sir Paul McCartney’s former wife seemingly can’t stop herself.
  5. Why does the Mirror fail its readers by continuing to allow Ms Mills to behave in such an underhand fashion?