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Make 'em Wave the White Flag

27 March 2009

By Harry Lang
In World War II, the scourge of the Allied Fleet was the U-boat. The Nazi submersible had a shot-to-hole rate that would make Tiger Woods jealous.

There was very little reason that the Allies couldn’t have afforded their counterparts the same punishment -- they had perfectly good boats by standards of the day, the same torpedo setup and, crucially, they were defending an island -- something that would have motivated any sailor to get happy on the triggers.

The reason there was such a disparity came down to briefing. The Admiralty ordered British submarines to defend the shipping channels against an undersea attack. A very British approach.

Wheras the German sea lord’s command said something like: “If it’s not ours, Wolfgang, sink ze Schweinhundt!”

When it comes to your digital acquisition strategy, the comparison is straightforward.

Do you want marketing that merely floats on the surface and reactively promotes your brand, or do you want predators that take an aggressive stance and beat your competitors into waving a white flag of submission?

The analogy here isn’t about copy. It’s about leading the battle for new players and delivering opportunities to target players in a personal, direct and more relevant manner.

Players no longer respond to the traditional marketer’s toolkit, which consists of safe and reliable advertisements, placed with the right frequency, in the right media, and with a tempting enough carrot to draw through new players. As marketing devices, they have become little more than wallpaper.

As such, response rates have sunk dramatically in recent years.

The predator’s marketing arsenal is filled with a variety of shapes and forms. At the hardcore end of the scale would be the Phorm data driven experiment that BT, the national telecoms provider, just had its knuckles rapped for. Basically, by "spying" on user habits, advertisers could tailor their offering specifically for an individual. However, there was a problem, as the venerable Sir Tim Berners-Lee pointed out last month.

He compared the kind of deep-packet inspection deployed by Phorm and others to reading people's letters. "It's opening the envelope and looking inside," he said. "It's the internet equivalent of wire tapping."

And as the gaming industry strives to maintain a squeaky clean image of self regulation, that doesn’t sound like a viable option.

On a less legally fragile tip would be live update banners. Using XML feeds you can show real-time odds, jackpots, sign-up bonuses -- anything you like -- all in the traditional banner space.

The great thing about live feed updates is that you can do it now. Immediately. This second. It’s not "next-generation" technology, but technology you could implement within a week if you had a budget and a couple of e-mail addresses.

For a poker room or a casino, live banners are an incredibly effective means of displaying upcoming tournaments, prize funds, affiliate deals, bingo schedules and time-specific sign-up bonuses -- all in real time.

For sports books, they are an essential. With the proliferation of in-game betting, any sports book who cannot display second-by-second odds updates within the online banner space will be left behind. Of that there is little question.

Make 'em Wave the White Flag is republished from

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Harry Lang
Harry Lang