There is a general recognition that the industry has gone a step too far in the intensity of its marketing and now needs to re-asses what it is doing. They need to come up with practices that are more acceptable before politicians make the decision for them and ban advertising outright. The move by Sky TV to limit the number of adverts to one per commercial break is a reflection of the changing attitude of the media industry towards the gambling sector.
The New Rules
Regulators as well as advertising and consumer protection authorities have also been casting an eye on the output of marketing departments. Advertising compliance has become a hot topic over the last year, with companies being brought to task for small omissions, right up to fining them heavily for adverts that might attract underage gamblers. Governments are bringing in a whole suite of laws, including a watershed from dawn till dusk, no advertising during live sports events as children might watch them, as well as restrictions on themes and characters that might appeal to minors. On a positive note, gaming companies are taking all of this very seriously and are looking to get ahead of the curve in complying with these regulations. Marketing teams now have their own dedicated legal teams that are advising them of what each country requires in terms of advertising regulations, which makes marketing a very complex task. This has also seen certain channels being cut out completely, for instance SMS marketing, which companies are removing from their portfolios because they cannot control who reads the message. Even a simple tweet that doesn’t include #sponsored or #advertising could get an operator in trouble.
C-Suite Insight by Ali Atam, CMO of Videoslots
Towards Zero-Risk Marketing
Marketing compliance is one of our top priorities at the moment, especially in certain regulated markets such as the UK, where restrictions and penalties on gambling advert violations are much tougher than ever. I am quite certain that other countries will eventually follow suit. The regulatory landscape is still in flux and changes frequently. Before we launch a new marketing campaign, we are always asking for legal advice. We want to take zero risk. Affiliates are an important driver of traffic for us. I personally think they should be regulated, too. Right now, in some regulated markets, we as an operator are responsible for the actions of affiliates and even sub-affiliates. We check every single affiliate to make sure they comply with the regulations in the markets they operate. If we have any doubt about their integrity, we stop working with them, even if this means we will lose business. We want to be sure that we are always compliant with the regulations. Given the challenges around player acquisition, we are also placing a stronger focus on retention marketing, which is becoming ever more important to create engaged customers.
Change is in the Air
Authorities are not only taking a fresh look at operators but also at affiliates. Operators are now responsible for anyone who is referring business to them. There was a time when marketing was more about working with the referral network than with the customer. This is about to change. There is already price pressure from affiliates to up the revenue share, which might see companies get more involved in direct acquisition. However, buying customers from affiliates still represents 50% of gaming companies’ traffic, so it is not a channel they can disregard easily without investing heavily in their own internal marketing.
Bonuses and free spins have been the cornerstone of the industry’s entire marketing approach for the last 10 years. The reality is that we will probably see a curtailing of these elements as a marketing tool. The industry will have to look at other ways of attracting and retaining customers.
C-Suite Insight by Irina Cornides, CMO of Jackpotjoy Group
Entering the Era of Smart Marketing
The general challenge, especially for a PLC, is finding the right balance: balancing long-term versus short-term goals, growth versus profitability, and brand building versus direct marketing. Changes in regulation and some of the underlying market fundamentals in some jurisdictions make forecasting and ROI analysis more difficult, and require a greater reliance on judgment calls. I firmly believe that marketing is becoming ‘smarter’. This trend has already started and will only continue. Great strides in machine learning and AI mean that we can now optimise campaigns to a much greater degree and can reduce human ‘judgement calls’. This also means great personalization, and ultimately, getting closer to the ‘holy grail’ of marketing: right customer, right message, right time, right channel. Netflix is not only adapting the type of content it shows its users, it is also adapting the imagery it uses in the content titles it recommends. They may recommend the same title to two different users but may advertise it with different visuals. I am excited to harness these concepts in our industry and am looking forward to a time when we can offer our customers a fully personalised experience.
Irina Cornides, CMO of Jackpotjoy Group
2019 will probably be a big year in marketing tech. The advancements in this area have been significant, and the applications now very much allow companies to be more targeted in delivering the right message to the right customer. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows companies to offer highly customised content and to market their products based on player preferences. Many operators are currently exploring ways to grow their market share on the basis of content personalisation and recommendation engines. Personalisation becomes even more important with the growth of ‘In-Play’ markets and players desire to be able to bet in real-time on in-play events.
C-Suite Insight by Ronni Hartvig, Chief Commercial Officer of Betsson Group
Navigating a Challenging Landscape
We are pushing hard to improve our product. The iGaming industry has become much more competitive, and if you really want to stand out, you need to offer a top-notch product and a great customer experience. If your product is not good, you will never get a good return on your marketing investment. On a global scale, we practically use all marketing channels. Affiliates are still an important driver of traffic for us, but we have changed the way we work with them. We put a lot more effort into building the relationship with the affiliate, and the entire process has also become a risk management exercise. There are restrictions in some markets, and for us it is important to find the right marketing mix. Marketing compliance and advertising restrictions have become much stricter, and we want to emerge as a leader in best practice. For instance, there are markets where a certain marketing technique is not illegal, but it might backfire on our reputation. Unless we are more proactive, I think the iGaming industry could follow the same restrictions that other industries face today. We need to be more vocal about our intense efforts in responsible gaming and get the message across that gaming is entertaining as long as it’s within limits.
Ronni Hartvig, Chief Commercial Officer of Betsson Group
Challenges and Opportunities
The marketing landscape for gaming marketers has never been so complicated, but on the other side there is a clear determination by the industry to pull up its socks and deal with areas of sharp practice. The tools that are being developed have never offered marketers so many possibilities to be innovative in their marketing campaigns and product positioning. Many companies are looking to online retailers and streaming networks in the way they are executing their marketing and personalise their content. Personalisation of content is going to be one of the key differentiators between the winners and the losers.
C-Suite Insight by Magnus Alebo, Managing Director Brands of Mr Green
Magnus Alebo, Managing Director Brands of Mr Green Ltd
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