888 shells out millions for gambling ad campaign

Empire Casino, London

888 Holdings, Plc. is jumping into the gambling advertising ring in the United Kingdom. It was announced this week that the company had chosen CHI & Partners to launch a £6 million branding campaign.

According to MarketingWeek.co.uk, the campaign is the first multi-format marketing campaign for 888, which runs the gambling sites 888.com and Pacific Poker.

One of the parts of the campaign will be television advertising, which is permitted in the United Kingdom only as of very recently. The market was opened up for companies that meet strict guidelines Sept. 1 with the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005.

Ladbrokes Plc. was the first to take the leap into the U.K. advertising market. Now 888 will join in when its television campaign breaks later this month.

While Ladbrokes focused mainly on sports betting to kick off its advertising, 888 is taking a more general approach to gambling in its advertising, basing its theme on the idea that life is one big game.

One aspect of its campaign uses outdoor posters that have teasers like, "We've put another poster down the road. Red or Black?" and taxi ads that say "Next taxi you see? Light on or off?"

MarketingWeek.co.uk also revealed that the television ads for the company will feature games whose outcomes can only be found by going online.

The first commercial features a giant piece of toast falling from the sky with jam on one side and chocolate spread on the other. Viewers who want to guess which side it lands on can go online and make their selection. If they're right, they'll gain access to the site's real games as a bonus.

This new advertising campaign is part of 888's continued efforts to expand into other markets after deciding to leave the U.S. market when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed into law in 2006.

"Our marketing refocus in the first half of 2007 was invaluable in our efforts to turn the company around, based on our focus of delivering state-of-the-art integrated marketing," said CEO Gigi Levy in the company's latest interim report. "We have activated more marketing campaigns outside the US than ever before, with a strategic focus on key local target markets."

This focus included the successful brand-building Sevilla and World Snooker Championship sponsorships.

"The success of these sponsorship activities is demonstrated in a recent survey showing 888.com with the highest level of brand awareness of any gaming and betting Web sites in the UK, which continues to be the industry's most important market," Levy said.

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