Analysis: Will GambleAware be suffering advert regret?

By Gambling Insider

UK problem gambling charity GambleAware, which has been the subject of scrutiny in recent months, recently launched a ‘Tap Out’ advert for its Bet Regret campaign. The Gambling Insider editorial team analyses whether this advert was successful, or indeed appropriate; this article is also available in the print edition of Trafficology October.

Peter Lynch : Sports bettors urged to 'Tap Out' to prevent problem gambling

The Bet Regret campaign is now in its second year, with the latest advertisement looking to build on its success last time out, relying heavily on research from Ipsos MORI, which evaluated the first year of the initiative. 

The decision behind the advice for bettors to ’Tap Out’ is an interesting one, with advertising agency network M&C Saatchi linking up with the researchers at Ipsos to find that closing the betting app for some time before placing another bet was the most effective way of preventing ‘Bet Regret.’ Whether the advertisement works in reducing problem gambling is another matter entirely. 

The research also found that self-awareness among the target audience – 18-34 year-old men – was improving, but that more specific advice is necessary to enact further change. Hence the narrowing in on ‘Tap Out.’

It’s undoubtedly a worrying time for many during the coronavirus pandemic, but charities like GambleAware are under particular stress given the problem gambling concerns in the UK. Subsequent findings from the aforementioned research found that online football betting has increased since its return after a brief break because of coronavirus, and that gamblers tend to bet more while watching matches at home as opposed to watching them live in a stadium. 

GambleAware must, therefore, deal with such challenging statistics and many more, meaning it will be near impossible to find the right balance when making an advert of this nature.  

The body has attempted to appeal to young men by situating the ad in a pub, a scene where a high percentage of online sports betting takes place. However, with pubs now closed due to the current lockdown restrictions in the UK, a more suitable setting may be considered, while a scenario involving football could replace the wrestling aspect, particularly considering the majority of sports betting centres around the former. 

Iqbal Johal: APPG criticism unnecessary and misses the bigger picture  

It seems as if GambleAware is stuck between a rock and a hard place with its Bet Regret campaign. On one hand, the UK gambling harm prevention charity needs to adequately get the responsible gambling message out there, but also in a way that is effective and catches the viewer's attention. Of course, any advert deemed too light-hearted will be jumped on by industry critics, circling like vultures around anything they don’t agree with, as was the case with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm (APPG).  

Its chair, Carolyn Harris, criticised the advert claiming it doesn’t address the self-exclusion message, with the ‘tapping-out for time out’ concept featuring a wrestler intercepting unsuspecting gamblers about to place an ill-considered bet, before pinning them down until they agree to ‘tap out.' 

From the critics’ point of view, the advert is perhaps a touch too comedic for the obviously serious issue of problem gambling it tries to address. At the same time, it is one that becomes etched in the viewer’s memory, and does address the notion of thinking before you bet; especially on competitions of less familiarity, such as the Ukrainian Premier League – the example used in the advert.  

What the APPG fails to consider is the target audience. The reason the pub is used as a setting for one of the two adverts is because, like it or not, this is where the majority of traditional sports bettors in the targeted 18 to 34 year-old male audience spend their spare time, and where they can be to place a flutter. The hope is the target audience will be able to relate to the advert in a familiar setting, which arguably would have more of an effect than any advert that is more informative, but has less impact. 

As GambleAware pointed out, the advert is directed at those who are frequent sports bettors rather than those with a general gambling disorder. With that in mind, the APPG has missed the point of the entire advert; and should maybe look at these positive responsible gambling efforts, rather than unnecessary criticism.   

Owain Flanders: GambleAware may have missed the mark 

While the Bet Regret ads may have been based on in-depth research, they have received criticism from a number of sources. Although it might be considered counterproductive to criticise GambleAware for these well-intentioned ads, there is certainly some logic to that criticism. 

To assess the suitability of GambleAware’s newest ads, it is useful to consider the gambling charity’s previous Bet Regret videos.  

Two adverts featuring ex-England international goalkeeper David James were launched eight months ago as part of GambleAware’s 2019 campaign. Similar to the ‘Tap Out’ campaign, these adverts combined humour with a serious message. James was placed in embarrassing situations before the short clips concluded with the slogan: “Sometimes we do things without thinking them through. Don’t let betting be one of them.”  

These ads seemed to tick all the boxes, even those defined by the APPG. They encouraged bettors to stop and think before betting or they would ultimately regret it, with James’ personal regret clear to see in both ads. Moreover, what better way to appeal to the UK’s football bettors than by featuring an ex-England international football player in an embarrassing situation? 

By contrast, if we consider the current advertisements, it is possible to understand why they have been the subject of criticism. The two ads see bettors tackled to the floor by wrestlers and forced to stop their problem gambling behaviour. Although this does provide a humorous element, in reality, gamblers will need to ‘Tap Out’ of their own accord. No one will be able to force them to stop gambling and (other than clear physical pain) the bettor shows no signs of emotional regret for his actions like James.  

In this situation, safer gambling is presented as the aggressor, forcing the man towards its own point of view. Perhaps a more suitable advert would see problem gambling personified as the wrestler – appearing from nowhere to ruin a bettor’s night out with their friends. Instead, the unexpected hero bettor could turn the tide and force the wrestler to ‘Tap Out,’ allowing him to put down his phone and continue with his night. 

So although it means well, GambleAware may have missed the mark with this one, despite its extensive research.  

Tim Poole: The message is right – but the trivialisation is not

It’s never easy to try and balance the need to address a serious problem while appealing to an audience that thrives on casual content. That’s the central challenge posed to GambleAware here.

For me, however, the new Bet Regret advert fails to meet this challenge miserably. My natural reaction to seeing this advert was ‘it’s terrible.’ GambleAware is supposed to be a serious organisation dealing with a serious issue – and it is extremely well funded in terms of resources. So is this really the best it – and renowned advertising agency M&C Saatchi – could come up with?

It feels like an advert that would be created on the Apprentice, with a group of workers gathered round a table with no expertise on the subject matter whatsoever. I can just imagine Lord Alan Sugar’s reaction in the boardroom: “What a load of old tosh” – or something not as politically correct, perhaps.

True, the advert does address the actual product. And the message is actually spot on: betting is not a bad thing – of course it’s not – but chasing your losses while betting on a random league, where you don’t even know the names of the teams, is unwise to say the least.

But the way the advert is framed? It’s more Benny Hill than John Lewis. With the potential to convey such a powerful message, which some of the old Bet Regrets somewhat achieved, it’s laughable that this slapstick representation is the best GambleAware can come up with.

No wonder this advert has received such criticism from those concerned with problem gambling. While anti-gambling critics will attack anything to do with the industry, adverts like this give them justification.

In my opinion, the advert would not do anything to help someone who is losing too much while gambling. Instead, it would anger them that such issues have been trivialised and made into a joke – one that isn’t very funny.

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