For the second year in a row, Sign Salad is delighted to have been shortlisted as finalists for the Market Research Society’s Cultural Insights Award for our work with GambleAware. The project analysed the social constructions contributing to the stigmatisation of gambling harms, and led to the development of an informational video, a stigma reducing language toolkit, and ultimately helped the development of a new comms campaign seeking to address the stigma of gambling harms head on.

We were delighted to win this award in 2020 for our work with Chivas Brothers, Pernod Ricard and to have been shortlisted last year for our work with Co-op Funeralcare. Our nomination this year continues to demonstrate the ways Sign Salad’s highly actionable cultural insight can have a powerful real-world impact.

Project Summary:

GambleAware, the leading charity working towards reducing gambling harms in Great Britain, was looking to identify the socially constructed sources of stigma related to gambling harms.

The stigma of gambling harms is a proven barrier to those seeking support alongside negatively impacting the mental and emotional wellbeing of those experiencing it.

GambleAware teams worked with Sign Salad, using cultural insight and semiotic analysis, to uncover stigmatising cultural constructions, as well as those helping to reduce stigma by:

  1. Studying wider culture, including TV, literature, print media, advertising, social media and public discourse – particularly around mental health, addiction and taboo subjects.

  2. Gathering evidence through a combination of in-field and desk-based cultural detective investigation in the UK for how gambling harms have been represented and understood in culture.

  3. Investigating the meanings communicated by GambleAware, the broader gambling and gaming category, and assets and touchpoints utilised by other organisations seeking to combat gambling harms.

Through this process, our semiotic analysis of the stigma of gambling harms in British culture identified;

  • Visual and language narratives, codes and cues driving this process of stigmatisation.

  • Empowering cultural constructions that can be used to counteract stigma, such as focusing on ‘person first language’ (e.g. “person experiencing gambling harms”).

  • That even current communications from within the gambling sector, as well as those by organisations seeking to help those experiencing gambling harms, may unintentionally reinforce stigmatising constructions.

Gambling harms is an area that is difficult to gain deep insight into using conventional research methods due to the cultural taboo around talking about this topic. Without Sign Salad’s cultural insight and semiotic analysis, it would have been difficult for GambleAware to gain the insight they needed to provide resources to reduce the stigma of gambling harms, and for creative evolution to meet their ambitions.

Project Impact:

Findings from this study identified a clear set of visual and language cues that should be avoided in order to reduce the sense of stigma felt by persons experiencing gambling harms, as well as ways to leverage cues from wider culture that could reduce or negate this sense of stigma.

In order to try to change the narrative, Sign Salad and GambleAware jointly produced an accessible language guide designed by Bubble Dot, which identified key language to avoid as well as providing positive terms to use instead.

Working closely with the animation agency AnotherRobot, Sign Salad and GambleAware also collaborated on an animation ‘challenging the stigma of gambling harms’. The animation offers an approachable route into understanding the world of gambling harms and stigma, as well as offering some initial steps that can be taken to reduce stigma.

The language guide helped to feed directly into the development of GambleAware’s new fully integrated public health campaign, “Let’s open up about gambling”, which included three new TVC adverts which were co-created with the lived experienced community to bring to life their experiences of gambling harms, putting their experiences at the heart of the communications (e.g. Magnets, Wall and Fog).

Ultimately the impact of this work will continue to be felt as it is integrated into further GambleAware outreach, education, and communication initiatives going forward.

“As with many other public health issues, those experiencing gambling harms are unjustly stigmatised and discriminated against which results in too many not reaching out for support. Sign Salad’s analysis clearly showed how the current discourse in Great Britain is stacked against those who experience harms. The findings were presented with a clear structure, tangible examples, and most importantly highlighted potential solutions. The language guide has been integral to our stigma reduction activities across the organisation, and we intend to update it in line with ongoing feedback from adjacent research projects and community members.”

 Dan Riley, Research Lead for Advertising & Brand at GambleAware

Market Research Society’s ‘Cultural Insights Award’: Finalist