By Howard Lee
By now, the advertisement by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) about how betting on Germany could go wrong – and how it did eventually “go wrong” – had created such a monstrous string of jokes online that the humour would likely last us until the next World Cup.
Admittedly, I care too little about football to appreciate the joke fully, but what I can say is that NCPG’s response to the ridicule thrown its way was modestly commendable, even if a little over-the-board. As reported in TODAYOnline:
“An NCPG spokesperson said: “We are not pulling … the advertisement. I do not see why we should.”
The spokesperson said the campaign was a timely reminder not to get carried away in the excitement and hype of the World Cup. “The focus of the (television commercial) highlights how those close to the gambler are adversely affected by problem gambling and not who eventually wins the World Cup,” she said.
She added that the choice of Germany “injected a sense of realism in our messaging, since no one will bet on a potentially losing team”.
“At the end of the day, win or lose, the dangers of problem gambling, and the potential anxiety and pain that loved ones go through, remain unchanged,” the spokesperson said.”
Stoic, to say the least. A little stiff. And yes, the bit on a “sense of realism” sounded way more desperate than it should.
Yes, the decision not to pull the ad was a wise one. Germany, from what I understand, was never touted to win Brazil, much less the World Cup, so the pick was nothing but co-incidental. It could have been any team, and the message would have been the same.
NCPG’s decision to focus on the message in this “recovery” stage is generally on track, and if nothing else, the incident allowed them to push the message a lot stronger.
But to say the ad “injects a sense of realism” is, to put it accurately using a Cantonese term, “grabbing sand after the fall”. Realism only kicked in when Germany won, and it would be hard to imagine that NCPG had any inking that this would happen for such realism to be premeditated, such that they can now claim credit for it.
If anything, suggesting so basically implies NCPG took a gamble – hardly appropriate, as I’m sure you would agree.
Which then brings me to the more important point, the crux of all communication efforts: How much did NCPG plan for this?
The good corp comms people at the agency must know that the ad would be screened during World Cup, and with fair odds screened during a match when Germany would be playing. In comms, we are trained for contingencies, and it would be hard to imagine that the people would not consider odds in everything it does, more so for matters relating to a game where things can go to the dogs in an instance.
In such a planning scenario, NCPG should have factored in the irony, ridicule, jokes and memes coming its way. A more light-hearted response, rather than a stoic one, even if the subject matter is serious, would have been a stronger PR move. They could have even factored in a counter-ad, should Germany really win – perhaps not to late to hash together one now?
As it stands, the response indicates that NCPG did not plan adequately for this turn of events.
For sure, hindsight is always perfect vision, but the implications that NCPG did not hedge its bets properly does it very little credit.
Then again, bad publicity is still publicity, so who are we to judge?
This article was first published on Angelens Consultancy, a start-up by the editor to offer public communication services.
Image credit – NCPG website