An Instagram post for Mecca Bingo, seen on 16 August 2023, featured two images of the celebrity drag queen, Baga Chipz. In the image on the left, they were not smiling and were wearing plain, dark clothes, with no make-up. In the image on the right, they had a happy expression, were holding a champagne glass in the air, were wearing a red sequinned outfit, with matching jewellery, and had a full face of make-up. Text above both images stated “Before playing Mecca Bingo vs after playing Mecca Bingo”. A caption on the post stated “A good game can transform you! Don’t you just love that post-bingo glow. Over 18s only. BeGambleAware.org. DrinkAware.co.uk. Ts&Cs apply. #letaplaymeccabingo #meccabingo #winning #bingo #winningfeeling #feelinggood #bagachipz”.
Two complainants, who believed the ad suggested gambling could enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
Mecca Bingo Ltd believed the ad did not suggest gambling could improve personal qualities or enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem. As well as offering bingo games, they said their goal was to provide customers with an exciting and entertaining experience. They said the purpose of the ad was therefore to convey that their services were fun and entertaining, with the post featuring the well-known drag queen Baga Chipz, who Mecca Bingo regularly worked closely with.
They said the use of the “before and after” metaphor and the reference to having a “post bingo glow” reflected how a person may feel after a night at Mecca Bingo, and the modification of appearance was not an indication of enhanced personal qualities, self-image or self-esteem. They said the post included the word “transform”’ to convey this sense of enjoyment and because references to transformations were common in the drag entertainment industry. They said Baga Chipz rose to fame on the TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, which regularly used this language, and that viewers of the ad would be aware of that context and therefore would not take any reference to transformation literally.
They believed viewers would consider the difference between the two images of Baga Chipz reflected a highly exaggerated portrayal of the emotions a person would have after enjoying the entertaining environment of a Mecca Bingo venue.
Mecca Bingo said they deliberately omitted any reference to winning at bingo to ensure they avoided suggesting that the “feel good” factor of bingo only came from winning.
They said the reference to having a “good game” was intended to refer to the positive experience and atmosphere of Mecca Bingo venues and the benefits brought by the social interaction people had when attending. They said there was nothing in the ad which suggested winning at bingo would give someone a sense of positive recognition, admiration or superiority.
They acknowledged that the ad could have been misinterpreted if viewed without understanding it in its full context. They said they recognised the importance and requirements of the CAP Code and would ensure that future marketing including social media posts conveyed their messaging more clearly. They confirmed they had permanently removed the post.
The CAP Code stated that ads for gambling must be socially responsible and must not suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities, for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration.
The ASA noted the image on the left featured an individual with a blank facial expression, neutral stance, and dark clothing and who we considered was presented in a way in which displayed little emotion. This contrasted the image on the right, which showed the same individual with a happier facial expression while also wearing a full face of makeup.
We also considered the addition of a raised champagne glass and brighter, more exuberant clothes, in the form of a sequinned outfit with matching jewellery, presented that person as having a higher level of confidence and an enhanced self-image in comparison to the same person in the image on the left. We considered the text above the image on the left, which stated “Before playing Mecca Bingo” and the text above the image on the right, which stated “vs after playing Mecca Bingo”, implied that an individual would achieve that higher self-image by playing bingo.
We also considered that the caption on the post, “A good game can transform you! Don’t you just love that post-bingo glow” and the hashtags, “winning, “winningfeeling” and “feelingood” created an impression that an individual could improve their self-esteem, as well as their self-image, by not just playing bingo related games, but also by winning them.
We acknowledged that the ad featured well-known drag queen Baga Chipz and that the two images, combined with a reference to being transformed, would have been interpreted by some viewers to be a reference about drag queens. We still considered the overall impression of the ad, particularly through the contrasting images, suggested gambling could improve an individual’s self-image or self-esteem.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad suggested gambling could enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem, which was irresponsible and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.6 (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Mecca Bingo Ltd to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that suggested gambling could enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem.