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COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING AND REMOTE GAMBLING: MESSAGES OF MASS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GA

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Title: COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING AND REMOTE GAMBLING: MESSAGES OF MASS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GA


1
COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING AND REMOTE GAMBLING
MESSAGES OF MASS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR
RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS FOR
RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING
Responsible Gaming Academy Vienna, Austria May 5,
2009
  • John L. McMullan, PhD
  • Department of Sociology and
  • Criminology
  • Saint Mary's University
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Canada

2
Advertising can be seen to shape and reflect
reality…..any advertisement might be apprehended
in terms of its dramatic shape, metaphoric
content, and social context, as an example of the
cultural order (Sherry, 1987).   The consumer
is never absent from advertising agency
strategy…..consumer experience is supported by a
complex social map which details how a product
will be used, how it will fit into, shape and
alter the lifestyle of the prospective consumer
(Myers, 1983).    Youth culture will no longer
be rushing to purchase what is new ……within
todays technological, multiple supermall
society, but instead what is meaningful. In
other words, theyll be looking for products that
have soul (Lopiano-Misdem DeLuca, 199714).
3
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS     Delthia Miller, M.A.,
Research Associate   Aunshul Rege, M.A., Research
Assistant   Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation,
Funder   Saint Mary's University, Course Stipend
Release
4
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5
INTRODUCTION
  • This presentation examines the world of remote
    gambling advertising involving primarily
    off-shore gambling sites.
  • The perspective I take is that advertising is a
    cultural system of communication.
  • I explore the following questions in this
    presentation
  • How do remote T.V. gambling ads persuade?
  • What master messages do they convey?
  • What are the cultural referents that shape online
    gambling ads on television?
  • What concerns do off-shore gambling
    advertisements evoke or raise for responsible
    gambling with regard to youthful consumers?
  • What directions should responsible gambling
    advertising consider in the future to mitigate
    harm on adolescents?
  • Repetition
  • Acting and staging
  • Making connections to wider social worlds
  • entertainment, sports, film, youthful
    lifestyles, etc
  • Affirmation of values
  • Selling needs, desires and status
  • Promoting interaction between senders and
    recorders role-taking, in-joking, satirical
    competition, etc
  • Stylization

6
METHODS
  • To explore these questions I devised a study that
    looked at remote gambling ads that played on
    eleven broadcast networks from January 2007 to
    July 2007 in Canada.
  •  
  • I analyzed commercials on 461 television programs
    that resulted in a convenience sample of 64
    distinct gambling ads that played for 509 hours
    of recorded TV time.
  •  
  • Each gambling ad was coded for content including
    placement time, corporate advertiser, type of
    gambling product, target audience, use of camera
    positions, pace of ads, use of sound, color text
    and taglines in the ads.
  •  
  • Most importantly, each ad was also coded for
    messages of mass persuasion, including
    responsible gambling messages.

7
FINDINGS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and
Persuasion Techniques
  • Forty-four percent of all TV programs played
    gambling ads, averaging 3 ads per program,
    lasting 30 seconds per ad in length.
  • Gambling programs and sports shows accounted for
    63.6 of all gambling ad placements.
  • The type of gambling product most frequently
    advertised was online poker (72).
  • The two most frequent advertisers were Full Tilt
    (30) and Poker Stars (14).
  • The majority of ads aired between 8 p.m. and
    midnight (40), but one third aired in daytime
    and early evening slots between noon and 8 p.m.

8
FINDINGS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and
Persuasion Techniques (ctd.)
  • Young adults between the ages of 19-30 were
    targeted in about 2 out of every 3 ads.
  • Males were targeted in about 3 out of every 4
    ads less than 10 of ads were aimed at women.
  • The visual frames, which averaged 15 per ad,
    typically dramatized close-up camera shots
    evoking images of gambling that were emotional,
    exciting, gainful, seductive, studious and
    competitive.

9
FINDINGS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and
Persuasion Techniques (ctd.)
  • The pace of the ads were evenly divided
    fast-paced to specify the thrill of play and the
    anticipation of winning and slow-paced to signify
    the cognitive and strategic nature of card based
    gambling.
  • About one half of the ads used bright colors and
    graphic displays to set and maintain mood and
    meaning for their products (i.e. winning,
    sexuality, appeals to loyalty, etc.) and about
    one third of the ads featured black and gray
    colors to convey the apparent suspense, mystery
    and seriousness of table play.

10
FINDINGS Messages of Mass Persuasion
  • Exaggerating skill over luck (53) i.e.
    Horseshoe ad.
  • Message was
  • gambling was predictable, luck was insignificant
    in the gaming equation,
  • Bad luck will not prevail,
  • Playing longer will change the odds favoring the
    player,
  • Anyone can become a pro and control the outcomes
    of gambling.

11
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12
FINDINGS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)
  • Normalizing the gambling experience (50) i.e.
    cursing ad Message was
  • Gambling was routine and common rather than an
    occasional leisure or entertainment event.
  • Gambling as a consumer activity was much like
    buying groceries rather than going to the movies.
    It was an everyday routine.
  • Gambling was a 24/7 activity, easily purchased,
    and consumed from everywhere at night, on
    weekends, during lunch hours at work.
  • Gambling was eternally reoccurring in
    transnational and multicultural contexts.
  • Availability and participation were repetitively
    promoted.

13
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14
FINDINGS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)
  • Celebrating Wins, Winning and Winners (37) i.e.
    Costa Rica ad Message was
  • Online gambling was a source of material gain.
  • Subtle approach emphasized the dream of winning
    it all fantasizing monetary success as a
    wishful event leading to personal riches.
  • Direct approach used prizes and cash to induce
    participation and highlight availability of
    play.
  • Loud audible voiceovers and large bold flashing
    textual taglines promised viewers they could
    win 2,000 in cash and prizes or be among ten
    Canadians who will win millions of dollars in
    cash and prizes.
  • The appeal was to consumers altruistic instincts
    (share the dream), their self-interest (it
    could be you), and the certainty that they had
    nothing to lose (everyone is a winner).
  • Messages played on impulsivity and encouraged
    arousal and excitement through winning and
    winners (such as successful celebrities) while
    not mentioning the large numbers of players who
    were more likely losing.

15
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16
FINDINGS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)
  • Overemphasizing the positive life-changing force
    of gambling that could change peoples social
    status (42) i.e. Playing for Team Canada ad.
    Message was
  • Poker and blackjack could redefine personal and
    social identity,
  • Playing these games could make you over and
    turn you into a popular, high net worth,
    attractive person if you went All In and
    gambled.
  • These messages used irony, role identification
    and turn-taking win a round of golf with a
    hockey great. you could become the next world
    champion to signify elevated social status as a
    result of rubbing shoulders with cultural icons
    and to emphasize the possibility of forming new
    positive lifestyles and social networks
    emanating from internet gambling.

17
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18
FINDINGS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)
  • Encouraging escapism (27) i.e. Boardroom versus
    Poker table. Messages proclaimed
  • Gambling offered a reprieve from the everyday
    world of work, family and responsibility.
  • Poker, blackjack and casino play were fast and
    easy alternatives to employment
  • No worker training required, only passion,
    grit and knowledge needed, just fast track
    your play and revel in the rituals of gallantry
    that card and casino games supply.
  • Wagering in virtual environments removed people
    from the subordination of others,
  • Imagine a digital experience where freedom, fame
    and easily earned fortune predominated over the
    banal work world filled with conflict, stress and
    uncertainty.
  • Rather ironically, the fateful encounters of
    gambling online were represented as a better risk
    for success than working for a living.

19
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20
SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS
  • Advertising is dependent for its effectiveness
    upon a constant circulation of cultural norms and
    values which it appropriates from society at
    large i.e. youth culture for tobacco products,
    drug culture for designer drinks to name two.
  • In the case of remote gambling ads promoting
    offshore sites, sport culture was used to try
    and sell e-gambling to consumers, and much more
    so than lottery or casino advertising.

21
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22
SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd).
  • Presenting internet poker and blackjack as if
    they were sporting activities in their own right
    by (a) emphasizing skill and talent, heralding
    heroes, and using sport-related terms (i.e.
    marathons, classics, legends world series, etc.),
    (b) hosting these gambling programs on sport
    channels and (c) deploying sport communication
    forms (i.e. play by play announcers, action
    replays, elimination rounds, player interviews,
    expert commentators, end of game analysis, etc.)
    to pitch the products.
  • Using actual sports events or broadcasts of such
    events to promote online gambling at offshore
    venues i.e. poster campaigns in bars during high
    peak events, running billboard ads during college
    sports events, using models to market products in
    pre game events.
  • Using gambling programs to direct their audiences
    to view upcoming sport programs such as hockey
    games, baseball events, soccer qualifiers and
    football matches on their commercial time slots.

23
SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd).
  • Mobilizing an emergent sport-related referent
    system as part of actual advertising content by
    deploying (a) the images and signs of sport i.e.
    footballs, hockey pucks, goal lines, goal posts,
    (b) the sounds of sports i.e. shouts of players,
    roar of spectators and (c) the places of sport
    i.e. arenas, stadiums, and golf courses to
    associate winning at gambling with winning at
    sports and to popularize internet gambling by
    connecting it to well established culturally
    approved users, uses and ideals. Playing at the
    virtual tables was like playing at the big games
    on grass!!

24
SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd).
  • Directly sponsoring internet gambling products as
    worthy providers for sport events proper such as
    rodeos, cricket and tennis matches, arena
    football league teams, basketball teams and prize
    fights, or directly sponsoring sports figures
    race car drivers, professional volleyball
    players, hockey icons, (Mat Sundin) etc., and
    mobilizing sport celebrities to form their own
    T.V. tournaments to either play for worthy causes
    offered by e-gambling providers or to offer their
    legendary status as personal prizes for
    worthwhile winners.
  • The sportification of gambling the
    gamblification of sport the myth of gambling
    as sport which encourages consumers to believe
    that gambling and sports co-exist naturally and
    which fosters dependency of the world of sport on
    gambling revenues.

25
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING
  • The stylization, messaging and cultural
    referencing of offshore gambling advertisements
    raises several focal concerns for a responsible
    gambling agenda, especially as they effect youth.
  • Responsible Gambling messages were absent in 75
    of the remote gambling ads.
  • In the 25 of the ads containing Responsible
    Gambling Messages, they typically took the form
    of age advisories, located at the bottom of the
    screen in small barely visible lettering, that
    played for only a second or two. 
  • Only 2 of the 64 ads offered odds of winning
    information and none provided cautionary warnings
    related to risk or harm. 
  • Youth and young adults were a constant bye-catch
    of much remote advertising even though they were
    not technically targeted. This is worrisome
    because 63 to 82 of minors in Europe and North
    America now gamble 10 to 15 are at risk for
    developing gambling problems and 4 to 7 exhibit
    pathological gambling patterns leading to other
    maladaptive behaviour such as substance abuse,
    delinquency and crime and suicidal ideation.

26
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.)
  • Almost two-thirds of the ads resorted to
    professional player celebrities to help sell
    gambling products and add credibility to gambling
    brands. In addition, popular celebrities,
    entertainers and sport figures were deployed to
    make messages more believable, enhance message
    recall, improve brand recognition and create
    positive attitudes about internet gambling that
    research shows appeals to young people and
    encourages them to engage in gambling online.

27
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28
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.)
  • The advertising of internet gambling targets
    money sites as well as practice sites.
    Advertising the latter is of concern because the
    involvement of youth in online gambling appears
    to be increasing with over half of those surveyed
    in prevalence studies reporting play on
    practice sites, and with research showing that
    such sites have over-inflated payout rates, have
    been associated with recruiting young gamblers
    online, and have been identified with fostering
    future gambling problems or compounding existing
    ones.

29
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.)
  • The sportification of gambling and the
    gamblification of sports is also particularly
    troubling because internet corporate sponsorship
    of sports in the form of events, teams, club
    shirts, hats, shorts, sneakers, posters, games,
    computer equipment etc., is very appealing to
    youth, induces them to form brand connections
    between gambling and sports early on in life,
    poses a direct risk to them at a developmental
    age that makes them unduly susceptible to
    influence and persuasion, and exacerbates the
    likelihood of them developing problem gambling
    behaviours during their teenage years.

30
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.)
  • The content of the television ads reinforced
    factors that research has shown contributes to
    excessive at risk gambling, especially among
    adolescents. 
  • the association between winning and continuous
    play but theres always another hand if you
    practice enough you can become like Joe Hasham
  • the association between impulse buying and loss
    of control over rational thinking Play for Team
    Canada…..Your country needs you.
  • the association between overconfidence in skill
    and the propensity to play longer and chase
    losses to heck with luck, this game is about
    skill luck cant explain why final tables have
    so many familiar faces
  • the association between excitement, the pursuit
    of sensation, and the development or maintenance
    of dissociative experiences we play to bluff
    to bamboozle, beat and beguile to dupe and
    delude to suck in, sabotage, trap and trick to
    hook and hoax to fake, feign, and fool and do it
    all against the best

31
CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.)
  • the association between myth making, faulty
    thinking and the real statistical probabilities
    of economic success and social mobility from
    gambling you could be the next world champion
    of poker click to enter for a chance to be
    Canadas next poker champ you can be an
    aspiring poker star
  • In sum, there are serious concerns associated
    with remote gambling ads that indicate the
    absence of accurate information about the
    products, misleading images, sounds, and
    statements about the effects of gambling,
    unbalanced portrayals of the products benefits
    and risks, and dubious inducements to gamble that
    stretch the credibility of the definitions of
    decent, honest and truthful.

32
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING
  • The problems associated with youth gambling and
    advertising are increasingly being studied and
    monitored. Like the impact of advertising in the
    fields of alcohol and tobacco there are now
    demands for bans, codes of practice, tighter
    restrictions, and more responsible regulatory
    frameworks to ensure that ads for gambling
    products do not unduly influence youth. Based on
    the empirical evidence from this study and the
    growing body of literature related to this topic,
    the following guidelines are recommended to
    reduce the impact of this form of advertising on
    youth.
  • Advertisements for gambling products must contain
    accurate information regarding the chances of
    winning and visible warning statements that
    clearly indicate the potential risks associated
    with gambling too much.

33
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.)
  • Gambling advertisements must be especially
    sensitive to youth and should not include or
    portray individuals who appear to be under the
    age of 25, so as to prevent youth from relating
    to models, actors or celebrities who dramatize
    gambling or glamorize winning.
  • Youth oriented graphics, sounds, and thematic
    content suggesting that gambling is cool, hot
    or in should not be used to advertise, promote
    or market gambling products.
  • Gambling advertisements should not be allowed to
    include images, sounds or texts that promote
    excessive skill, spending or identity
    transformation.
  • Gambling advertisements should only be permitted
    for viewing during timeslots and on programs
    where they cannot normally be accessed by
    adolescents or children.

34
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.)
  • Gambling advertisements should restrict product
    endorsements from celebrities who are likely to
    appeal to minors and increase the propensity of
    youth gambling recruitment and participation.
  • Internet gambling companies that generate their
    revenue from gambling should not be allowed to
    advertise their names or products through the
    sponsorship of sport teams, events or figures and
    should be encouraged to contribute to a hands
    off independent government board that would
    oversee sponsorship funds to sporting teams and
    worthy charities on behalf of the gambling
    provider but without corporate naming rights,
    branding or logos.

35
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.)
  • Advertising for practice websites on television
    should be subject to the same regulations for
    advertising on real money sites and practice
    sites should be better regulated and monitored so
    that they do not contain promotional materials
    and direct links to online money sites and do not
    offer preferential payouts as inducements for
    young people to gamble.
  • To create a safety net between government
    regulatory and revenue agencies and to ensure
    that gambling ads do not adversely impact youth,
    the regulations governing gambling advertisements
    should be made mandatory, should be developed by
    gambling product, should be written in a clear
    language that is enforceable by law and should be
    reviewed and evaluated continually by an
    independent body that is distinct from that
    involved in generating revenue from gambling.

36
THANK YOU. QUESTIONS?
  • John L. McMullan, PhD
  • Department of Sociology and Criminology
  • Saint Mary's University
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Canada

Responsible Gaming Academy Vienna, Austria May 5,
2009
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