"We’re all having fun but you have to edit yourself" - David Hasselhoff on social media, Gala Bingo, press intrusion and brand Hoff
To quote the Baywatch theme tune, ‘Some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light’, well the star of the nineties US drama, David Hasselhoff is certainly not one of those people, as The Drum found out when it went along to interview the former Knight Rider and Britain’s Got Talent superstar. ‘The Hoff’, as he has become affectionately known, is in town to promote his latest project, the launch of Gala Bingo’s newest online gaming offer – a Facebook scratch card app. Launched just in time for Valentine’s Day, the game has interactive features such as video clips of the Hoff reacting if you win. Gala Bingo has a 21-year history on the high street, but in the last year since its relaunch, the business has been making efforts to respond to a growing audience online. With innovations such as scratch cards, slots and a million pound game last Christmas, Gala Bingo is offering a wealth of entertainment in the online space. According to Alex Czajkowski, chief marketing officer at Gala Interactive, the UK is “the most hotly contest bingo battleground in the world. In Google Adwords, ‘bingo’ is amongst the most expensive keywords available.” Gala Bingo’s aim is to be one of the top five in the digital game-playing space. The strategy behind the brand is explained as tapping into the UK’s celebrity-dominated culture. With the relaunch last year fronted by Peter André, Czajkowski says that players through Gala are being brought closer to celebrities. “We are creating branded and exclusive content that you can only get at galabingo.com – none of our competitors have adopted this and we want to own that space.” He hints at the use of further celebrity involvement, aiming to keep the brand fresh and attractive to its players, but making a considered choice as to who gets involved. “We don’t want to make the mistake of tying up with one celebrity that’s bigger than the brand. That approach won’t have legs. We launched with Peter André, then brought out The Hoff scratch card. We are about constant innovation and change; new and different ideas at Gala Bingo…numbers have gone through the roof”. Social media plays a large part in Gala Bingo’s strategy and is one of the presiding factors in the choice of which celebrities they work with on their campaigns. Alex talks about a “‘perfect storm’ brewing” and the UK is one of the first to see it. “Gala Bingo has positioned itself to be right at the centre: at the collusion of three worlds – TV with The Hoff and Peter André, the social side of things (both André and The Hoff have their own social media platforms, so Twitter takes a pivotal role) and the gaming side. The intersection of the three – big entertainment brands with the social footprint and money-ties through the gaming – is a unique space.” Of The Hoff, Alex says that “he resonates well with the player base and enjoys working with us. He is so great to work with, such a professional. It would be great to work with him again. He’s got this magical thing – he just works the crowd and people just like him – so we expect that to rub off on the game and the brand”. Friday saw Hasselhoff launch the scratch card with a meet and greet for a few lucky contestants on Facebook, which The Drum was invited along to. He attended an event at Vanilla alongside a few other ‘famous faces’ and Gala competition winners, taking fifteen minutes out to talk directly to us. “I was very much involved in the design of it and the Valentine’s Day theme,” revealed the actor. “We designed the ‘river of love’ and got together in the studio. We all sort of jammed and made up stuff, so even when you play the game you get a ‘Hoffism’ coming back at you if you win. It’s really a lot of fun. It’s not like going to the slot machines and just seeing a picture of me that’s not talking to you,” he stated before candidly offering his view on today’s media environment. “What I like about the media is that it has fallen back into our hands. Instead of reading things about you that are untrue, you’re able to print things about yourself and people are able to find out what your personality is through social media, like Facebook. It’s very difficult to answer all your fan letters but people will Tweet me and I’ll read about someone who needs something or who I’m able to help by retweeting, such as awareness for breast cancer. Or else, if someone writes shit about me, I’m able to say ‘no, that’s not true, this is the real truth’. It’s turning into a great tool and also gives us the opportunity to have some fun.” Speaking about the scratch card and a new iPhone app he collaborated with Playstation games makers DanceStar Party on called ‘Dance-Hoff’, he said, “It’s just a way of staying current with the kids and I found that you have to recognise the obvious and so many people forget about what’s right in front of them. What is right in front of you is social media and its run by kids. Social media is also a way to advertise, so if you want to get something out and make a living right now every studio, commercial, agent - everyone wants to know how may twitter followers you have and who reads it. I have 500k followers - I don’t have 20m - but I know that when I go out, or when that picture goes out, that you have to be careful, because it’s going to go to the Mail, The Sun and all over the world and they can check it out.” Of his own brand, Hasselhoff said, “I have to be careful because if we’re having a laugh – doing some pictures with Hayley (his girlfriend of two years who he met on Britain’s Got Talent) – pulling her bathing suit down – I was like, ‘wait a second, you can’t do that!’ We’re all having fun but you have to edit yourself. The internet is just like going out – there’s certain places you don’t want to go – certain places like going to a club when you know it’s time to leave, some people have had too much… there’s a lot of that on the internet and you realise that it’s very important to police that.” Hasselhoff also discussed the recent press regulation focus as a result of the Leveson enquiry; “you see all these guys getting indicted and we know they do it because we are celebrities, we’ve been the victims of it. They know they do it and they’re having a laugh all the way to the bank and they lie about it. Even with the Royal family, one difference in how far the press can take it… Diana to me is dead because of it and I had the opportunity to meet her and know her on a social level and I felt a real sense of sadness that she was just so real and I love her kids who I met Harry and William when they were young. At least when something comes out about them, the press are put on notice and the people at home defend them. I love how the people supported Harry when he was caught naked. That was awesome! He’s a real guy and you know what – it’s happened to me as well!” The Facebook App featuring Hasselhoff debuted on the Gala Live TV channel on Friday 8 February.