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Analyze this! Thepool.com’s ASA censured
advertising campaign

What was the campaign?
Thepool.com’s controversial and, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), irresponsible and ‘Utterly reprehensible’ under -18 print campaign in the UK.

What media were used?
A leaflet, an ad in free UK daily newspaper Metro and an ad in London weekly lads’ magazine, Zoo.

How much did it cost?
Probably minimal, perhaps between £ 10,000 and £ 20,000.

What was the aim? 
The aim of this campaign was to generate awareness of the brand, thepool.com, by running an extremely insensitive offline advertising campaign, the sole purpose of which was to provoke a reaction and generate publicity.  They obviously agree with the adage there is no such thing as bad PR.  However, in this instance I rather think there actually is.

What do we think?
To be frank.  I was appalled with the adverts (cheap creative cheap shot) and wholeheartedly agree with the ASA’s decision to pull them.  I think at this time, when others in the industry are toeing the line in the wake of the Department of Culture.  Media and Sport’s guidelines, such behavior is just plain selfish and irresponsible.
      Furthermore, regardless of whether or not it is technically legal for 16 and 17-year- olds to play the pools, it is morally reprehensible to advertise to them.  On the flip side, however, this gives the industry the perfect opportunity to distance itself from thepool.com, condemn its actions and again the moral high ground.

Bodog  tries to sew up NFL deal

Bodog has offered a deal to the US National Football League (NFL) which would give the exclusive rights to the NFL’s internet content.  The NFL’s current agreement expires in May and Bodog is “considering a deal likely to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars”.
      Calvin  Ayre, founder and chief executive of Bodog.com, told eGaming Review.  “We are confident a partnership of this nature would be a sound business decision for both parties.”
      NFL is a bastion of US sport and the SuperBowl is the highlight of the US sporting calendar.  This year, 800 million viewers watched the game in 229 countries.  Ayre said: “Here is an opportunity to blend a traditional form of entertainment with the world of digital entertainment.  This year, we added digital music distribution and TV production to our offerings, so our offer to secure internet rights to NFL’s digital content properties can be considered a natural next step.”
      Ayre added he thought a partnership of this nature would align with Bodog.com’s long-term business objectives to becomes a standalone entertainment brand.  “football is enjoyed by millions, and if we can make the game more enjoyable and interactive, then wonders can be done for our brand and to the popularity of one of the US’ greatest pastimes.”

      In a letter to Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s vice-president for media strategy, Ayre said Bodog would complement the NFL’s existing tactics to promote American football through new technology.  “Bodog.com has seen the power of the internet first hand.  Securing the rights to the NFL’s digital content would be a strategic business move, and would align with our long-term business objectives.”

Virgin to reward players

In a first for an online poker company, Virgin Games has launched a loyalty scheme which offers equal benefits for all players, and a choice of how to spend rewarded points, including charity donations.
      V-points will give Virgin Poker players a chance to earn a range of Virgin rewards including Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles, at a rate far in excess of leading schemes such as Nectar.  Josh Morris, marketing manager at Virgin, emphasized the freedom of choice associated with the loyalty scheme, and the motivation for it.
      He said: “It has been interesting for us.  We took a bit of time when we relaunched poker and looked at how to position ourselves to bring something different.  We have a bit of collateral from the Virgin Group so we created the loyalty scheme, being as generous as we could.”
      The main thrust of the loyalty points scheme is that players can not only see exactly how much they are ‘earning’, but can choose to spend their points in ways as varied as air miles, music vouchers or charity donations.
      “We decided to offer four options for the players to collect their rewards,” said Morris.  “They are also awarded for all tournaments.  Once the points have been awarded they will not be taken away again, even if an account is inactive for a while.”


      He added: “It is like a currency.  These points have an actual cash value.  A lot of reward schemes are not as transparent as ours in that one point is a penny.  “We estimate, for reasonably serous players, they could earn a trip to Las Vegas every few months.  But we wanted to be able to reward casual players as well in a generous way.”
      Morris also said the company hopes to make its loyalty scheme more flexible in the future, involving partners such as Virgin Digital.  For low-ranking players, there will be regular chances to supplement V-points with special tournaments and promotions, such as the Million Mile Challenge freeroll in May.
      Meanwhile, the company is looking out for a digital advertising agency for its VirginGames.com brand, which previously utilized in-house creative services.  Ross Sleight, market director of Virgin Games, has been  searching for agencies to bring robust innovative ideas to the brand.

Ford film criticized for fraud depiction

Harrison Ford’s recently- released thriller Firewall has caused some upset within the gambling industry after its depiction of online fraud.  Authentication specialist GB Group has criticized Firewall’s plotline, in which Ford’s character’s identity is stolen and the thieves accumulate a US$95,000 gambling debt.
      GB Group says that given technological advances, it is an unlikely scenario, as criminals do not have an easy time when using stolen  credit cards.  It also points out Firewall plays on the public’s fears that identity theft leads to abuse through egaming.  The company’s id3 software, which is used by around 80% of the egaming industry, including Betfair, PartyPoker and 888, powers its URU platform.


      As well as validating the authenticity of a credit card, it also checks date of birth, name, and place of birth and parents’ names.  These can be crosschecked against official data such as electoral rolls, passports and diving licenses.
      Rob Laurence, managing director of GB Group’s Data Authentication division, said: “We are not saying it isn’t easy to steal someone’s identity, we are saying it’s increasingly hard to use it once you have.


      “Major gaming companies are adopting the strict regulations which apply to the financial services industry – knowing who their customers are and not just that they have the means to pay.  This self-regulations reflects the fact that savvy gaming operators know the most valuable customers are verified customers. 
Laurence said high-profile portrayals of identity theft such as the Firewall plot play on customer fears that someone stealing their identity will immediately head for the table.
      “In fact there are eastern places for them to profit from their crime than a sector which is repeatedly demonstrating it takes corporate and social responsibility seriously.” he added.

News in brief

  • Gamebookers has offered to bridge the gap between the amount paid to the men’s and women’s champions at Wimbledon to the tune of £ 30,000.  The cheeky offer would top up the women’s prize money to £ 655,000, equal to that of the men’s competition.  Luke Brill, marketing director, said: “We were amazed Wimbledon should take such an outdated view on equal prize.”  The tennis offer follows on from Gamebookers’ offer in April to German football club Bayern Munich to top up Michael Ballack’s pay in an effort to keep him at the club, rather than see him move to a bigger pay packet at Premiership champions Chelsea.
  • Betfair has won the Media Sponsorship Award at the 2006 Hollis Awards at the 2006 Hollis Awards for its backing of the Channel 4 Ashes cricket coverage.  Paul Witten, marketing director, said: “The unprecedented international attention the Ashes generated led to record figures for us both in terms of turnover and customer acquisition.  To win the award, considering the competition we faced in our category, is an endorsement of both our product and our business.”  The 2005 Ashes coverage had the biggest TV audience in the series’ history.
  • St. Minver has launched a casino and poker room for financial information website MoneyAM.  Branded games will include blackjack, roulette, baccarat and stud poker as well as one-and –five –line slots.  Mike Boydell, managing director of MoneyAM, said: “Launching online casino and poker is an integral part of our online strategy to increase revenues and we wanted to partner with a company that would give us the best solution for both.  Since the launch, we have seen a substantial sign-up rate.

 

 

 

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