The Bingo Association
It is not every day that the Chancellor of the Exchequer praises a public affairs agency, but that is exactly what George Osborne did in his Budget speech this year when he recognised a ‘vigorous campaign’ as he slashed bingo duty from 20 per cent to ten per cent ‘to protect jobs and communities’.
The campaign took shape months before the 2014 Budget when The Bingo Association appointed PLMR to tackle a discrepancy in betting taxes: while most gambling activities were taxed at 15 per cent, bingo was taxed at 20 per cent. The anomaly was stifling investment and causing clubs to close. Last year 17 clubs shut, and just one opened.
The resultant strategy exploited that fact that the Cabinet was seen as predominantly wealthy males who were out of touch with ordinary voters, and that the Government was keen to tackle its image problem.
PLMR discovered a strong geographical correlation between marginal seats and areas where bingo was popular. It positioned ‘support for bingo’ as part of a plan for MPs to connect with their voters.
Between September and December 2013, politicians received financial data showing how a tax reduction would increase industry investment as bingo operators committed to modernisation and job creation if the levy was cut.
MPs were matched to their local bingo clubs so that all campaign communications were specific to their constituency, and what a cut in taxes would mean to their voters.
Polling company ComRes was commissioned to find out public perceptions about bingo, and in doing so create a news hook for the media. Its analysis of 2,047 British adults found that 61 per cent felt bingo clubs provide an important local service and bring communities together.
The findings were released just days before the official launch of the Boost Bingo campaign on 17 January when 400 bingo clubs held free games and players signed a petition calling for a reduction in tax, which were printed on the back of their game cards. More than 50 MPs also visited their local bingo halls to demonstrate their support: some even called out the numbers.
The launch day generated more than 200 pieces of media coverage. Tweets about the event reached a potential 230,000 people and more than 25,000 people ‘liked’, shared or commented about the campaign on Facebook.
On 26 February, a petition containing 305,000 signatures (later updated to 340,000) was delivered to the Chancellor’s residence. Almost 200 bingo players then joined MPs for a procession past the Houses of Parliament. A series of meetings with MPs and senior Treasury officials were also held to continue to push the message.
Less than four weeks later, the Chancellor announced his decision. ‘This was a very professional campaign,’ said the judges. ‘It was a clever strategy to attach MPs to their constituencies.’ One added: ‘This was a widely respected campaign within the public affairs industry. It was seen as outstanding.’