Stop Headless Betting

This week we launched our new Stop Headless Betting campaign for the Racing Post, on TV, print, radio, Sport magazine cover wrap, outdoor, digital and experiential at Cheltenham Festival.

Back at the end of last year, we were challenged with the task of using advertising to help increase revenue from the Racing Post smart phone app. We're pretty familiar with the product, since we helped to launch it a couple of years ago. The main difference between the Racing Post app and other betting apps is the quality of information, predictions and tipping that it provides. However, the app is free to download and use, with revenue coming from people betting through the app.

This creates an interesting, if not unique dichotomy where the chief benefit to the user isn't the thing that creates revenue for the app owner. Quite a challenge when you're trying to increase that revenue.

Racing Post are keen to keep the app free to help maintain the penetration (simply put, more people download it and have it on their phone if it's free to download – since launch, it has had over a million downloads, which makes it one of the most downloaded racing/betting apps in the category). So to increase revenue, we have to find a way of increasing the number of bets placed on the app.

A delve more deeply into usage of the app tells us a few more things. The app, as above, has had over a million downloads since launch, but only a percentage of those downloads become active, regular users of the app (this is 'normal' behaviour in the category as far as we can see). Then of those active, regular users only a percentage of those people use the app to place bets (the rest use it purely for the information, tipping, and predictions, then bet on other apps).

This pattern seems fairly consistent as the number of downloads increases – that the use of the app is like an inverted pyramid, the widest end at the top being downloads, the middle band being users, and the bottom being those who use it to bet.

We know that through advertising alone we aren't going to get bettors to suddenly stop using betting apps that they habitually use, and switch to betting on the RP app (that behaviour is locked in by habit, and by account memberships and other things) – but we can show them why they need this app in addition to the ones that they currently use. And we know that from those new users, a percentage will start to habitually bet on the app.

So where advertising can best help increase revenue in this case, is in widening that pyramid - that is, increasing the number of downloads at the the top, which will in turn increase the number of users (and therefor increase proportionally the number of bettors. Another plus of doing this is that it'll naturally remind and prompt a number of people who already have the app to revisit it, which will move people from the top part of the pyramid to the middle (a percentage of whom again will become bettors on the app too, increasing revenue).

So even though the end goal is to bring more bettors (and therefor revenue) to the app, that isn't what it looks like we're doing. But the good thing about this is that we can expand the pyramid by getting people into the app because of its differences and advantages over other apps - the information, predictions and tipping.

To get the best bang for our client's buck we always aim to do advertising that's differentiating and distinctive in the category. Why do I say differentiating and distinctive – aren't they the same thing? Well no, differentiating is on a functional level - we show that the app can do things that others can't do - and what the benefit of that functionality is to the punter. Distinctive is how we do it - to do this in a way that is different to other brands in the market. To behave differently in the category

The betting market is characterised by shouty, blokey ads, all directly imploring you to BET NOW, in varying degrees of cockney, with odds and offers playing the primary role in content. So it's pretty easy to be distinctive.

One of the key things about how we work is that as creatives, we're involved and instrumental in this strategic thinking from the beginning of the project - there's no baton passing or briefing where this thinking gets handed off from one person to another. So we are always thinking ahead to how possible it'll be bring the approach to life in a way that'll be strong out there in the real world.

We thought it was important to bring to life the gap that the RP app can fill, not just show what it can do. We know there is a huge potential market of people out there who are betting on bookmaker apps, but aren't the type of enthusiast who would pick up a Racing Post newspaper. They tend to choose what to bet on from dubious advice from friends, or spurious reasons like name, colour of horse, odds, or tips in newspapers.

So we came up with the idea of labelling this kind of mindless betting: headless betting. Like the proverbial headless chicken. It gives us something to push at. We can point out the difference between betting with your head, or without it. We position the Racing Post App as the tool that enables you to bet with your head (with good tips and information), and we can characterise people who are making mindless bets as headless bettors. Which gives us a strong visual idea to bring the idea to life. So now we have good language to label the problem, and to offer the solution, and a strong visual idea.

The fun bit is bringing it to life. We decided it would make for arresting images if we depicted normal blokes – the kind who headless bet – in very normal situations, the only thing different would be they don't have heads. That meant we could have fun with the reactions of people, that everyday situations would immediately become interesting and distinctive, and we could play around with other touches that would be funny if people didn't have heads (how would they eat or drink? What do they see in the mirror? etc.).

We enlisted the help of ace director Tom King from production company Gas & Electric to bring the ideas to life on film, the great touches of performance and clean, graphic compositions really bring out the fun of the idea, but importantly behind that fun facade the job was hugely technical, involving shooting scenes many times over with actors and headless mannequins that would later be put together. Tom brought in the talented recent Oscar and Bafta winners (for the film Gravity) Framestore to give the ads the strong look and to pull off the technical trickery need to remove heads from actors who are moving naturally - we wanted it to seem perfectly natural, but the headlessness to be perfect and seamless.

We wanted the soundtrack of the ad to be something that was the total opposite of the technical nature of the visuals, to be characterful and light - and something that would be immediately distinctive in the ad break. We worked with Yellow Boat Music, to try out some different approaches – the winner by miles being the rather unusual comb and paper and tuba music you hear in the finished ad. We combined this with a great voiceover by Peter Serafinowicz – again we wanted the tone to be different from the shouty ads that dominate the category, so even though we tell people to "Stop Headless Betting" it's all done with a natural charm and wit. This was then all brought together sound design-wise by Wave.

For print we commissioned the talented portrait photographer Nick Dolding from Horton-Stephens to shoot the fantastic stills depicting headless bettors, again the reactions of the other people in the scene bringing the idea to life. Again we wanted the ads to be distinctive, so in a category dominated by large screaming type shouting odds and offers, we created image-led ads that are stripped back and simple (no hashtags and facebook logos for example). You see the ads and get the message in an instant, you don't have to work it out or go to a website for the answer or the fun bit, which means they also work well in outdoor.

The campaign is supported by deeper print ads that show off the different features of the app, and by headless people at race courses across England (starting at Cheltenham this week) handing out Stop Headless Betting cards.

Thanks to everyone involved in the campaign for your great work helping to bring it to life.

1 comment:

  1. Now if we could only stop headless advertising...your campaign is certainly a step in the right direction.