The UK government confirmed this week that it will review the law on allowing daytime TV advertising for sports betting and bingo, sparking concern within the industry. Broadcasters are also rightly concerned, having paid out significant sums of money to secure sports broadcasting rights on the assumption that they can recoup their investment through bookmaker advertising.

The last time there was a review the egaming industry arguably ‘got off lightly’ with just a ban on bingo sites offering welcome bonuses pre-watershed. However, it’s worth remembering that when this review was undertaken David Cameron was Prime Minister. David Cameron’s father was a racehorse owning stockbroker, Theresa May’s father was a Church of England vicar!

Some of us here at Home agency believe that a blanket ban on pre 9pm TV advertising would have too much of an adverse effect on broadcasters and that some ‘middle ground’ might be acceptable. For sports betting this could mean a ban on welcome bonuses in line with the earlier legislation aimed at bingo.

It’s worth having a look at how this affected the bingo TV landscape. According to Neilsen, in the eight months since the introduction of the new legislation, the number of online bingo advertiser on TV has fallen by a third. The bigger brands (including the likes of Tombola, Gala, JackpotJoy & Foxy) who are less about customer acquisition haven’t been hit so hard by the changes. The operators who have invested in their brand still have ‘something to say’ and were then less reliant on the welcome bonus to drive a customer to act.

TV remains the dominant advertising medium within the sports betting category, but agencies such as ours are working with their clients to develop multi-media strategies to mitigate against punitive changes in TV advertising regulations in the future.

With sporting event consumption increasingly coming through digital devices, which are not subject to the same regulatory scrutiny, we are developing ad executions specifically designed for ‘video on demand’ environments, where the viewer mindsets, needstates and advertising tolerance are very different to sitting on the sofa watching the big box in the corner of the living room. Brevity, relevance, and timeliness are key: get to the point quickly and you might just get their attention!

Speaking of attention, TV viewers are becoming ever more distracted by the second (and third) screens they use to inform and augment their sports viewing, but in our view this presents more opportunity than threat to sports book advertisers. For example, ‘Video fingerprint’ technology allows us to isolate specific events (City scoring an equaliser, Rooney being red-carded etc) and therefore to become part of the conversation during the game. Serving creatively adaptable digital display ads to second screeners in real time with live updated odds or viewpoints at key moments can be a powerful accompaniment (or alternative?) to expensive in-play TV ads.

Even the most old-fashioned media channels are getting up to speed with the real-time revolution, with Out of Home (OOH) media leading the charge. Previously somewhat clunky and inflexible, traditional poster sites are now being replaced up and down the country, and at pace, with state of the art digital OOH formats. Suddenly smart OOH advertisers can plan a campaign by geography, time of day, or even weather forecast, and copy can be rotated constantly to reflect real life events. So bookmakers have a new avenue to push out live odds, match updates and news, effectively extending their shop window to every high street in the UK if they wish. Add to that the fact that OOH is the ideal mobile companion, and a perfect platform for generating ‘affordable fame’ and you have a medium to rival the scale and effectiveness of TV.

So, whilst none of us at Home have a crystal ball, we do know that complacency is a very dangerous thing in uncertain times, so we’re busy preparing for a worst case scenario to ensure our clients have contingency plans in place if the vicar’s daughter finally decides that enough is enough!

Nick Harrison and Nick Jackson are directors of Home, an integrated marketing agency based in Leeds, London, Edinburgh and Gibraltar.

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