ASA orders Mecca to remove Baga Chipz social post

Rank Group’s Mecca Bingo has been ordered to remove an Instagram post featuring a prominent drag star by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The post featured celebrity drag queen Baga Chipz alongside a caption reading ‘a good game can transform you! Don’t you just love that post-bingo glow. Over 18s only. Ts&Cs apply. #letaplaymeccabingo #meccabingo #winning #bingo #winningfeeling #feelinggood #bagachipz”.

Two complaints were subsequently lodged with the ASA challenging whether the ads were suggesting that gambling can enhance self-image or self-esteem, and therefore breached the CAP Code.

In its assessment, the ASA observed that the post featured an individual with ‘a higher level of confidence and an enhanced self-image’ whilst the text suggested that playing bingo could improve someone’s self-image.

The authority also noted that a phrase reading ‘A good game can transform you! Don’t you just love that post-bingo glow’ and the hashtags, ‘winning’, “‘winningfeeling’ and ‘feelingood’ suggested that winning at bingo would boost self-esteem.

“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.”

In its defence, Mecca Bingo asserted that the ad was designed to “convey that their services were fun and entertaining”, rather than suggest that gambling could improve personal qualities or enhance self-image or self-esteem.

The usage of a before and after metaphor was intended to be a reference to “a post bingo glow”, with the word “transform” included as a nod to the drag entertainment industry and Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, where Baga Chipz, who Mecca noted that it “regularly works with”, rose to fame.

The company also maintained that the use of two separate images – with one showing Baga Chipz in plain makeup and another with a more glamorous appearance – were meant to be exaggerated.

The ASA explained: “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 ASA concluded its assessment that the ad could be seen as conveying that gambling can boost self-esteem, which was deemed an irresponsible marketing approach and a breach of the CAP Code.

Mecca Bingo were told that the ad must not appear again in the form complained of, and reminded to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that suggested gambling could enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem.

The bulk of the ASA’s rulings over the past year have revolved around the use of sports personalities in betting marketing – for example, Betfred was recently told to remove ads featuring Anthony Joshua, XLMedia was criticised for a post featuring Mason Mount and bet365 faced action for using Granit Xhaka.

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