If you haven’t seen it yet, Paddy Power’s newest advert – starring Rhodri Giggs – is a finely crafted masterpiece. Its references are niche but its message powerful. It engages an audience familiar with its content but, crucially, doesn’t attract the nay-sayers or bombard those without an interest in betting.
Fun fact: the product is Paddy’s Rewards Club, which includes rewards on sports betting – but the words "sports" or "betting" are not uttered once during the whole ad. The same applies for "casino."
In a world full of regulatory faux pas, this very trait could even make it more appealing to gambling and advertising regulators. In fact, it ticks so many boxes it begs the question: should this kind of advert become the benchmark for the future of betting advertising?
From conference to conference – SiGMA, G2E, ICE etc. – all we hear about is how regulation is curtailing gambling. Advertising, in particular, is the new target of moral crusades looking to hit the betting industry where it hurts.
In some countries – we're obviously looking at Italy – a blanket advertising ban has certainly damaged the sector’s ability to promote itself. But, in the UK, any moans from operators and affiliates about their freedom to advertise should now be considered old news. The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling’s voluntary whistle-to-whistle ban on pre-watershed ads showed an acknowledgement: an acknowledgement that the industry cannot once again rest on its laurels like it did with fixed-odds betting terminals.
There has been something even more proactive about Paddy Power’s new marketing campaign, whether intentional or not (the advert is so good, we’re safe to assume it is).
One of its many appeals is people with no interest in sport won’t even know who Rhodri Giggs is. Ask a legion of neutral viewers and they might not even be able to tell you it's a gambling advert. Compare that to Ray Winstone growling "bet in-play now" or James Buckley groaning "lads, lads, lads and everybody!"
A large part of the problem with gambling advertising within the UK is its repetitive nature. Does television advertising increase problem gambling? There is no publicly available evidence to 100% confirm this. Does television advertising boost sports betting revenue to an astronomical degree? The chances are very remote.
What a decade or so of, for the most part, poorly thought out gambling adverts have done, however, is create the impression gambling is everywhere, when it’s really not. The quantity of advertising has only been a factor in that. The lazy nature of a random, unrelatable spokesperson emphasising the best odds, unbelievable offers or just telling a customer to place a bet is a bigger issue.
This is what separates Paddy Power’s Giggs advert from the crowd. That’s not to justify Paddy Power’s past advertising or behaviour, while you can still find more traditional examples of in-play Paddy Power adverts on television (not to mention its social media and digital outlets). But the "loyalty is dead" campaign has provided a model every other gambling marketer should jump at the chance to follow.
While any restriction in in-play advertising will undeniably limit operators' advertising departments, there is always room for a good ad– at any reasonable time of the day. If there weren’t so many poor-quality adverts in the past, meanwhile, gambling advertising might not be in the state it’s in now.
Too many gambling companies are happy with an approach of "Paddy Power has conquered that market, so we can’t really compete." That is, and always will be, a cop out.
Paddy Power’s Giggs advert was not something only the Irish bookmaker could have done. It’s bold, edgy and mischievous – essentially all the hallmarks of a Paddy’s advert. At the same time, though, it’s subtle, compliant and innovative. Above all else, it's simply a good advert; which means there was nothing stopping another rival from doing the same thing.
With both regulators and viewers paying closer attention than ever, Paddy Power has set a new gold standard. If its competitors don’t step up their marketing efforts, there will no longer be a place for them within the future of betting advertising.