Why the gambling TV ad ban could lead to better customer experiences

14 December – 2018

From next summer, the gambling industry has confirmed that it will impose a voluntary ban on advertising during pre-watershed sports events. So, what will this mean for both the industry and agencies who rely on these fees? Simon explains…

It’s been a huge topic for the industry in recent weeks and months, and recently we’ve seen the confirmation of voluntary ban on TV betting ads during pre-watershed live sport. The ban also incorporates pre-watershed bookmaker sponsorship of sports programmes.

John Hagan, chair of the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), described the package of measures as a ‘watershed moment’ for his industry.

He said: “We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms.”

Will the TV ban just drive the gambling industry online?

There’s understandably a range of opinions on the matter. As you might imagine, broadcasters have been critical of the measure, citing the issue that the ban only applies to TV and not to other media.

Stephen van Rooyen, the chief executive of Sky UK, said: “The gambling industry are ignoring the fact they spend five times more on online marketing than they do on TV.

“By cutting TV ads, they’ll simply spend more online, bombarding people’s smartphones, tablets and social media feeds with even more gambling ads. A proportionate and responsible limit to gambling advertising across all media is the right thing to do.”

Agencies who rely on income from this work are also likely to be adversely affected by the ban. However, as agencies we’re regularly challenged to be responsive and adapt to market changes. This development is no different; the only difference potentially being the speed at which a change of this magnitude will come through.

The one thing that is certain is that we can’t ignore the reason for the pressure to change. As an industry we have a responsibility to protect young and vulnerable viewers.

Agencies have a huge opportunity to respond to this change

As well as presenting a great challenge, this is also a huge opportunity for the industry, and for agencies like ours.

With the reduction in spend and ability to promote via TV, we will no doubt see more investment in direct marketing. We’ll need to better understand our customers and improve the personalised communications we send directly to them.

As an industry we are very data rich and know a lot about our players. However, in many cases we don’t harness this understanding to its full potential.

If you overlay this change in TV advertising with the improvements in technology to help detect gambling problems, we can hopefully start to improve our relationship with customers to ensure we communicate the relevant messages to the right audiences at the right time.

Yes, some agencies (and indeed bookmakers) will be concerned with recent developments.

Ultimately, however, it’s in no-one’s interest to target vulnerable audiences. We should embrace this challenge, as it means we can really start to develop more personalised messaging.

This TV ban encourages us to try to communicate with people we know who have an active interest in playing. Over time this will drive us to deliver better customer experiences.