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Gamble Aware on crushing a billboard at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

May 19, 2023 | 6 min read

The charity placed the special build to raise awareness of gambling harms. Here we speak with the duo spearheading the campaign.

Gamble Aware

Gamble Aware’s billboard / Lucky Generals

We want to encourage people to speak up and seek help, says creative agency Lucky General’s head of strategy Matt Gainsford, continuing that maximizing every media opportunity is key in pushing that message to the masses. Last weekend, the charity did just that. A huge, crushed-looking out-of-home (OOH) activation popped up in London, the aim was to visually represent the devastating feeling that having gambling issues can have.

“In order to reach people, we need to be using tactics that are going to generate coverage beyond the spend that we have in our plans which led us to the special build,” he says. “First off, we had to find a site which was in a position that reached a high percentage of people that might be at risk to gambling harms.”

Commissioned data showed that people living in London were twice as likely to experience problems with gambling compared to the rest of the UK and sadly, two-thirds of Londoners wouldn’t speak to someone about these issues for fear of facing stigma.

To bring the idea to life, the team took two 48-sheet billboards, put them next to each other and began crushing them down through the middle section. “Hopefully bringing to life a feeling that people who have experienced gambling harms can relate to,” Gainsford adds. “Helping them realize that they aren’t alone and there is support out there.”

The brand believes it’s a world-first, but it wasn’t an easy process. The billboard was assembled and crushed on-site. It was tricky, the production team had to ensure that the copy was still visible. The level of squashing was a massive consideration, it had to land.

To further amplify the project, England and Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson, who has spoken out about his struggles with gambling in the past, lent his support. “He brings that lived experience,” says Alexia Clifford, chief communications officer for the charity. “That’s really important in terms of having a recognized, accessible voice reinforcing that message that this can affect anyone.”

Positioning this as a public health issue has been pivotal, adds Clifford noting that there has been a wide range of support from other well-known faces and medical communities. “The wider creative platform is strategically clever,” she adds. “It does a number of things effectively. The brief to Luckies was that we really needed to cut through. We want to be David against Goliath in this context. Our level of spend is tiny compared to the wider level of industry spend on gambling advertising.” Gamble Awares’ marketing spend sits around 1% of the wider industry, which is roughly £10.5m.

The billboard stands out in the environment, with language that was carefully considered to highlight that it is gambling that makes people feel terrible. It reads: “It felt like gambling was crushing me until I talked to someone."

Across the campaign, Clifford reiterates that they want to promote empathy and education. Gambling harms can affect anyone. There needs to be a message of hope and resolution, she notes.

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Gambling legislation is quite out of date, she stresses. A white paper made available last week published a whole series of new measures, protections and thoughts that can help create a safer environment for people.

“People have shared with us that it has really encouraged them to open up,” the comms boss continues. “It was important to get the tone right. The feedback we’ve has is that the campaign communicates the feeling of people experiencing gambling harm. We’re delighted with how it's landed.”

It’s early days for the brand platform. As Clifford puts it, it's big and exciting for the company and will be part of its plan for the next couple of years. She teases that the next few weeks will see more activations, keep your eyes peeled.

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