Insights Gambling Advertising – missing the target?

Much time has been devoted to the discussion of whether gambling advertising should be prohibited or restricted. 80% of gambling marketing activity is now online, with the industry spending a reported £1.2 billion annually on advertising. However, data as to the efficacy of such advertising is inconclusive.

Gambling advertising can be viewed by everyone, and this visibility raises three main issues.

Firstly, there will always be pockets of society who (as is their right) disagree with gambling and any advertising of it.

Secondly, a key tenet of the Gambling Act 2005 is to prevent children and vulnerable people from being exposed to, or encouraged to become involved in, gambling. While the content of gambling adverts can be adjusted accordingly, the viewing audience remains largely outside an advertiser’s control.

Yet, a bigger concern – or rather, opportunity – is squarely within operators’ grasp; despite escalating marketing spends, the data does not show a marked increase in revenues. Gambling adverts tend to crowd each other in their bid to gain existing customers’ attention rather than appealing to a new client base. Does targeted advertising hold the answer?

What is targeted advertising?

Targeted advertising is a serious tool in the marketeer’s arsenal, allowing operators to:

  1. reduce the volume of adverts seen by the general public
  2. protect children and vulnerable people from viewing promotional content, and
  3. finesse the content of adverts to appeal to a wider spectrum of both existing and new punters.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

What are the core issues with targeted advertising?

The main hurdle for targeting new customers is the basis on which such data is obtained. In addition to the overarching requirement to comply with data protection legislation, two serious issues arise.

Firstly, without proper inter-operator data sharing (the proposed ‘single customer view’[1]), it’s incredibly difficult to determine whether those targeted are self-excluded from other operators. If gambling advertising matures to encourage new customers to gamble, targeting those who are self-excluded is problematic.

Secondly, while analytics can paint a reasonably accurate picture of a proposed customer, they aren’t foolproof. Collating data about someone’s internet activity can’t give certainty as to that person’s age. Targeting them with gambling advertising creates a very real risk that a child may be unlawfully advertised to in breach of that operator’s licence.

Next steps

Targeted advertising, in respect of both the content and recipient of such adverts, is (subject to the considerations above) compliant with the licensing objectives.

The ongoing review of the Gambling Act therefore presents an opportunity for gambling operators to adopt a dynamic marketing strategy to distinguish themselves from competitors and successfully promote their services.

This article was first published as part of our “Expert insight on advertising, marketing & sponsorship” publication. Read insights on similar topics in the full publication here