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Mecca Bingo’s drag queen ad is criticised by ASA

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Advertising Standards Authority has criticised an ad by Mecca Bingo for implying that gambling could enhance one’s self-esteem.

Two images of Baga Chipz, a drag queen, were featured in the ad. It was published on Instagram, August 2023. On the left, the person was shown with a neutral expression. The right image showed the same individual in drag wearing a sparkly red dress and smiling. The person was also covered in makeup, and held a champagne glass.

Above the images, the tagline read: “Before and after Mecca Bingo”. A caption was posted on the photo that read “A great game can change you!” You must love the glow you get after playing bingo. Only for those over 18 years old. BeGambleAware.org. DrinkAware.co.uk. Ts&Cs Apply.” Hashtags include #meccabingo #bagachipz #winningfeeling #feelinggood and #feelinggood.

The ad was challenged by two people on whether it implied gambling can improve one’s self-esteem and self-image.

Recently, the ASA received complaints about gambling advertisements that questioned whether they could be appealing to those under 18. This led the ASA to criticize ads with Anthony Joshua, Gary Neville, and Mason Mount.

Mecca Bingo’s defence

Mecca Bingo has said that it did not intend for its advertisement to suggest gambling can improve your personal qualities. It said that the purpose of the advertisement was to convey the fact that Mecca Bingo offers a fun experience. Mecca Bingo has also stated that Baga Chipz is a partner it regularly works with.

The company explained that “transform”, was used to refer to how someone might feel following a Mecca Bingo night. Mecca Bingo said transformation references were commonplace in the drag world and Baga Chipz is aware of that context. Baga Chipz was on Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK in the first season.

It was stated that the operator had deliberately left out any mention of winning bingo to avoid suggesting a feeling of “goodness” could come only from bingo.

Mecca Bingo said that it also understood the possibility of misinterpretation. It said that this could have occurred if the ad was seen by someone without context.

This ad has been permanently removed.

Refunds for complaints

The ASA ruled the ad was in violation of CAP Code Rules 16.1 and 16.3.6.

It compared the expressions of the two images, comparing the expression in first with that in second. The standards body also noted the champagne glass, along with the “more extravagant clothes in the form a sequinned ensemble and matching jewellery”, as indicating “a greater level of self-confidence”.

The court also found that by placing the text, it implied a player could attain a higher sense of self through bingo.

Also, the hashtags were judged. According to the ASA, #winningfeeling or #feelinggood suggest that a person can increase confidence through winning bingo games and not only playing them.

The ASA stated that “we acknowledged that the ad included well-known drag Queen Baga Chipz, and that two images combined with a mention of being transformed would have been interpreted as a drag queen reference by some viewers.”

We still thought the overall impression was positive, especially through the contrasted images. It suggested that gambling can improve a person’s image or self-esteem.

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