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Gambling Advertising

A Tale of Two Bookies

The Blogfather compares the advertising strategies of Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, in the broader context of problem gambling awareness.

The perennial landing-in-hot-water-then-walking-on-it specialists Paddy Power are at it again, as Roy Keane sues them.

They had featured Keane done up Braveheart style on the side of their infamous truck, which often rocks up to a highly visible, topical place and straight into bother.

The image was accompanied with the inflammatory copy of; "you may take our points but at least we have our freedom (ya wee pussies)."

There is a devil-may-care attitude to all Paddy Power’s output that is refreshing and characteristic of the Irish. They don’t glamourize gambling, and most of their advertising consists of digs at the likes of politicians or overpaid sports stars, something we can all appreciate. They have entwined the Irish gift of the gab into their communications, giving them a strong, distinct identity.

Even in the face of legal action from Keane, Paddy Power still end their official statement with the cheeky:

"It's with the lawyers so obviously we can't talk about it, but hopefully they won't take our freedom to have a bit of craic."

Their positioning has similarities to the Protein World ad and social media response strategy that we blogged about previously, which certainly strengthened core customer support.

"It's with the lawyers so obviously we can't talk about it, but hopefully they won't take our freedom to have a bit of craic."

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Paddy Power is arguably the only bookmaker with a consistently decent marketing strategy. Coral’s ads are horrific, William Hill’s are utterly forgettable and then there is Ladbrokes. Whilst stylistically they look better than most, the ‘Ladbrokes Life’ hashtag and messaging is in some ways inherently misleading.

In reality, anyone who centres their weekend around gambling potentially has the beginnings of a gambling problem.

I remember vividly an account I heard from a recovering gambling addict. He had a new job, was paid weekly. He thought he would go out and buy himself a new computer console, but unfortunately walked past a Ladbrokes. The surging urge, got the better of him, and within an hour had blown some 700 pounds on a FOBT (fixed odds betting terminal). He turned to his mother, who wouldn’t take him in as he had stolen from her previously. That bridge was burnt. He’d had enough foresight to put enough money on his oyster card for the week, prior to the lapse, so proceeded to live rough at night then commute to work in the morning for a week until he got paid again. That was his Ladbrokes Life.

I quick skirt through Ladbrokes Twitter seems to show that they are not actively using the hashtag anymore, so maybe they have reached the same conclusion that the Ladbrokes Life is a bit of a fallacy.

You can understand why the betting industry would not want to talk about such stories. Yet the recent campaign by SENET, an independent body set up to promote responsible gambling, whilst being a positive step, still leaves a lot to be desired. 

It certainly succeeds in capturing the drab, soulless feel of many a bookies, with people stuck to FOBTs like limpets to rocks, instant coffee that gives you the skitters and bored staff working lone shifts 8am-10pm, hoping to be relieved by a colleague for an hour’s break at some stage.

SENET’s Chief Executive, Ron Finlay states:

“The aim is to use a light-hearted approach to remind gamblers and their friends or family of things to watch out for as signs of gambling possibly becoming a problem.”

Why light-hearted and not hard-hitting?

Maybe because this ‘independent’ body set up by those impartial, disinterested parties William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Corals doesn’t want to impact profits in an industry that generates 7 billion a year.

The watering down of a gambling problem to not being a big deal that can be dealt with in a light hearted manner and nipped in the bud by an impromptu sing along by a group of friends and strangers just doesn’t feel right.

There are over 350,000 people with a gambling addiction in the UK, and only 1% get treatment, which in part is probably because it is not seen as a real problem in some quarters.

‘When the fun stops, stop’. For most recreational gamblers maybe gambling is fun, although I am not sure how many people enjoy losing money, and most will. Further more, whilst ostensibly this sounds like a punchy, to the point strap, it actually shows limited understanding of a gambling addiction. Psychoanalytic theory, building on the work of Freud and Bergler, talks of the gambling addict’s unconscious wish to lose. For a lot of them, it was never about having fun. They want to lose from the off.

It is a major step forward to have an advert purely warning of the perils of gambling, certainly better than the pasted on after thoughts of the Gamble Aware links, but more can still be done. Roy Keane doesn’t usually mince his words, so maybe he can become the antithesis of Bet365’s Ray Winstone, and front a problem gambling awareness campaign.

“The aim is to use a light-hearted approach to remind gamblers and their friends or family of things to watch out for as signs of gambling possibly becoming a problem.”

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