A post on Buzz Bingo’s Facebook page, seen on 20 October 2023, comprised animated footage of a large full moon above a scene which featured grinning pumpkin heads, a lit church with towers whose roofs resembled pointed, witches’ hats, bats flying around, a spider in a web and a graveyard with a tombstone and a cross. Text in a font which resembled slime stated “MONSTER MONDAYS - £50,000 MUST BE WON EVERY MONDAY IN OCTOBER …” The logos for Buzz Bingo and “18+ - BeGambleAware.org” appeared at the bottom of the screen.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the cartoon Halloween imagery was likely to appeal to children, challenged whether the ad breached the Code.
Buzz Group Ltd (Buzz Bingo) said the ad was featured on their social media page which was restricted to Facebook users aged 18 years and above. It was also used as part of a focused campaign specifically targeted at users aged 25 who had a confirmed interest in bingo. They believed the platform the ad featured on, Facebook, was one with evidence for the accuracy of their targeting. They therefore believed they had acted and had taken precautions to prevent children and young people being exposed to the ad.
Nevertheless, they acknowledged the concern that the Halloween imagery could appeal to children. They had removed the ad on receipt of notification of the complaint and said they were making changes to their internal marketing approval procedures.
The Code stated that marketing communications for gambling products “must not be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”. The CAP guidance, “Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s”, stated that animated content and graphics could contribute to the impression that material was designed to appeal to under-18s. It stated that ads should avoid using child-like background imagery, such as that common in nursery rhymes or children’s stories.
We considered Halloween and the traditions surrounding it were likely to have strong appeal for children. Furthermore, the style of cartoon imagery used in the ad, which included trees with crooked and curly silhouettes; a smiling, carved pumpkin glowing warmly from within and text which resembled slime was reminiscent of children’s cartoons and story books. We also considered that the term “monster” was likely to appeal to children. For those reasons, we considered the ad was likely to be of strong appeal to children. We considered it would have been acceptable for the ad to have appeared in a medium where under-18s, for all intents and purposes, could be entirely excluded from the audience. That would apply in circumstances where those who saw the ad had been robustly age-verified as being 18 or older, such as through marketing lists which had been validated by payment data or credit checking. However, because Facebook was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up and did not use robust age-verification, we considered Buzz Bingo had not excluded under-18s from the audience with the highest level of accuracy required for ads where their content was likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.
We acknowledged the steps Buzz Bingo had taken in response to the complaint but, for the reasons stated above, we nevertheless concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.12 (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Buzz Group Ltd not to include themes or imagery that were likely to have strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their ads in future.