Gocompare and Bet365 demonstrate some old truths for new-fangled advertisers

Who says advertising doesn’t work?

Price comparison site Gocompare has just rejected a £460m offer from ZPG, owner of property portal Zoopla and rival site uSwitch, saying it undervalues the company. A company built on ads created by the veteran husband and wife team of Chris Wilkins and Sian Vickers and mostly directed by Graham Rose, who died earlier this year.

This follows shortly on from news that Bet365 – ‘Bet in play with Ray’ – paid co-founder Denise Coates £199m last year with an £18m dividend to top things up. Which surely makes her the richest person in Stoke on Trent. WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell had to get by on just £48m.

Bet365 raked in an astonishing £47bn in bets and made £527m profit. No doubt, as with Gocompare, it’s a well run operation (one might question the morality of it all of course) but there’s no doubt that front man Ray Winstone, who only seems to appear in other-wordly guise these days, had a lot to do with this success. As did Newcastle’s Drummond Central who devised the advertising.

Ms Coates may just be cashing in before gambling rules are tightened, of course.

Let’s also hope these adfolk and actors had a few shares in their contracts.

But are the ads any good?

That’s a stupid question, the results speak for themselves. But neither campaign, as far as I know, has come within sniffing distance of an award.

Neither have they availed themselves of the services of a big network agency, creative or media. They’ve triumphed by spending lots of money on TV, hammering home a simple message.

In the case of Gocompare the guiding light is Peter Wood, whose Esure insurance business started Gocompare. Wood likes ads, he reeled in his chum Michael Winner for Esure to howls of derision and that didn’t do badly either.

Doubt that Wood ever bothers himself with “data.” He knows what sells and that seems to work OK.

Sometimes this business just complicates what should be simple. Do the agencies, holding companies and consultants who do this know it’s really mostly smoke and mirrors?

And the world’s allegedly more sophisticated big advertisers. The likes of Procter & Gamble, Unilever and RB are all seeing slowing sales despite embracing the latest wheezes of the big agency networks and business school consultants.

In sport they say the best performers play what’s in front of them, ignoring the tech and psycho-babble.

A lesson for advertisers maybe.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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