How Ladbrokes Coral is adapting to the gambling ads crackdown

Ladbrokes

Ladbrokes Coral has appointed BBH to lead the creative for both of its namesake brands following increased regulation on how gambling businesses market to consumers.

Ladbrokes Coral’s media spend for 2018 was £15m, roughly the same as the year prior, according to Nielsen. It’s a consistently high spender on press – which has taken the lion’s share of budget for the past two years – TV and digital.

But it’s in a period of intense change around how gambling companies market to people. This year the government introduced a whistle-to-whistle TV ad ban on betting brands while the Advertising Standards Association has cracked the whip on content that might appear to underage consumers.

It’s been a lot for Dominic Grounsell, managing director of GVC UK Sports Brands, to contend with in his short tenure as CMO-turned-managing director of the group. He joined in April, shortly after the ad ban.

“We take all of our regulatory requirements very seriously," he said.

"There was a lot of work done within the business to adapt to the whistle-to-whistle regulation changes and as we go forward any further regulatory changes will be the same process. We need to do the right thing for the customer, protect vulnerable people and not advertise to under-18s. That's an ongoing process and one we're very aligned to to make sure we're within the confines of the regulation.

“The questions will always be how do we best interact with the consumer in a way that's appropriate and as we look to the next three years I see a lot of opportunities for gambling brands to continue to market in creative ways. But we need to do it in the most creative way possible.”

Enter BBH. After a remarkably short (two-week) pitch process, the agency was hired to help Ladbrokes Coral develop a three-year creative framework that would not only be able to flex with any further changes to gambling ad regulation but “modernise” and “refresh” the two brands.

Future work will retain the two long-running taglines, ‘Where the nation plays’ and ‘The smart money is on Coral’, but the group wanted new thinking on how that’s taken to market.

Past campaigns have leant heavily on the draw of celebrities. Ladbrokes' last major campaign, launched shortly before the Fifa World Cup, starrred model Kelly Brook and Inbetweeners actor James Buckley, while Coral's TV campaign to take it through to 2020 has been fronted by Hollywood comedian Danny McBride.

But the use of celebrities in gambling ads is among the tactics that regulatory bodies are cracking down on. The use of young celebrities and sports stars has become stricter, especially online, while gambling operators have also had to ensure that the majority of the audience of any social media influencers they work with are over 18.

Ladbrokes Coral is also reconsidering its media approach and has tasked BBH with working much more collaboratively with media agency the7stars on its circa £15m account.

Dominic Chambers, brand marketing director, said it has historically planned media by looking at the year prior’s spend and deciding the percentage by which to up or downgrade it. “We really wanted to look at how media can drive growth and ensure we're aligned with how consumers are consuming media today rather than what they were doing three years ago," he said. "We were really challenging existing conventions and assumptions to really see what we could do if we were given a fresh start for the brands.”

To avoid any complaints that they weren’t involved in the process early enough, Chambers insisted the7stars supported BBH and its rival agencies during the pitch. It will continue to brief them together and ensure that they’re working hand-in-hand over the coming years.

“We spend a significant amount on media and we want to make sure we get the best returns on that in all channels that we operate in. I've encouraged 7stars to help all the agencies in the pitch and that's how we would like them to work as a collaborative team in London.

The first test will be a campaign due in 2020 which will also be a stress test for how the new creative direction will land across different mediums in the face of ongoing regulatory changes.

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