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    As ad regulations tighten, Betfair shares future-proofed campaign ‘Finger Ball’

    Betfair has executed a bold new creative direction to prove it’s not a “boring” brand, all while balancing the incoming gambling regulation.

    The Flutter-owned bet builder tapped Pablo London to create the surreal 30-second TV spot ‘Finger Ball,’ featuring a pair of hands playing table football backed to football banger Freed from Desire by Gala Rizzatto.

    Pablo was tasked with finding a way to entertain viewers – but that’s grown ever-harder. In October a fresh set of the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) advertising regulations will restrict the use of celebrities in gambling marketing, crack down on those that appeal to under 18s, and censor ads that present gambling as fun or exciting.

    Chris Turner, Pablo’s director of planning, says all current work was crafted “through the lens of what the regulations will be in October ... we are incredibly buttoned down.”

    Pablo has worked with Betfair for several years and was formally appointed as its ad agency in 2020. Turner says it’s Pablo’s “responsibility” to Betfair to create campaigns that people are going to be interested in, but this is tricky to balance with the incoming regulation.

    “It’s a fine line between building entertainment and trying to do the thing that advertising needs to do in order to capture someone’s attention but not going too far and falling foul of regulations,” he says.

    Coral Racing was recently hit with an ad ban after the ASA found a horseracing ad too “intensely exciting.” Because the regulations are partly down to subjectivity, Turner says, “it’s a really difficult line to tread and it’s difficult to really understand exactly what is and isn’t going to get that scrutiny.”

    Turner says the regulation needs to be at the forefront of all parts of the process, from the client services to strategy and creative. “Otherwise, that whole process we’ve gone through is a waste of time and money, which is exactly what we need to avoid,” he says.

    Flutter, which also owns Paddy Power, Pokerstars and Tombola, has its own internal compliance team that advises all brands within the group. Betfair’s head of brand marketing Harry Phillips says all brands in the group are working toward being compliant by the October deadline.

    The ‘Finger Ball’ TV spot

    The original brief Phillips set to Pablo was based on the “challenge that Betfair as a brand has a bit of a legacy of having barriers to entry or negative perceptions around ease and speed of products.”

    Phillips admits that Betfair is perceived to have a more “nuanced product” that is harder to use, and the brand perception is that it hasn’t invested enough in its products.  As part of this insight, Betfair launched a new bet-building product to improve the ease and speed of making bets. The ‘Finger Ball’ ad promotes that product.

    Turner says in a “market saturated with bet builders,” Betfair had to combat the notion that it is a “little bit boring.”

    He defines Betfair’s customer base as “bettors who know what they are talking about and what they are doing,” which means its branding “often gets talked about in a complicated sort of way.”

    According to Turner, the rest of the gambling category markets itself around “laddish banter” that is as much about “going down the pub” as it is gambling. The campaign’s ambition was to bring an element of entertainment, but still stay clear of the “laddish” branding.

    Phillips adds: “Creatively there is a homogeneous approach in the [betting] category ... lots of brands put out very similar types of creative and a lot of them use talent to get across the message.”

    No more Clive Owen ads?

    The ban on using high-profile talent will be a radical change for gambling advertisers, who have often relied on celebs to drive a campaign. Peter Crouch is a regular in Paddy Power ads, Harry Redknapp has appeared in Betvictor spots and Love Island’s Chris Hughes is the ambassador for Coral Racing. 

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    Betfair had already distanced itself from using celebrities over the past couple of years, with its 2019 Clive Owen campaign being its last major celeb-fronted activation. Phillips says this made it an “easier conversation” when thinking about whether to use known talent in the ad.

    “In the spirit of trying to stand out, it’s actually a natural departure for us to move away from that model and look at a different way of delivering that message,” Phillips adds. 

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