Kidbet is the latest campaign by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, as part of its efforts to reduce the prevalence and severity of problem gambling. Studies show teenagers are up to four times more likely to develop a problem with gambling than adults and one in five adults with gambling problems started gambling before they were 18.
The Kidbet commercial is a dark satire of sports betting agency ads like this, which have proliferated Australian media in recent years. It features a tween schoolboy promoting a fictitious gambling agency that is ‘just for kids’. It’s undeniably clever. However is it too convincing? Will its subtle sarcasm be lost on kids and even adults who are most probably only half watching, whilst multi-tasking on another screen e.g. mobile phone? When you have to write: “*Not a real betting agency” on the screen, is your message getting lost?
According to this 2013 media consumption report, 74 per cent of online Australians simultaneously consume TV and the Internet. Meaning the disturbing statistics used might be lost, as they are only displayed as text on the screen. You don’t hear the educational message until you’re a full minute into and at the very end of the 1:18 minute commercial.
The agency-produced campaign is an admirable improvement to the uninspiring: “download our booklet” or “call our hotline” approach used by some other State-funded, social marketing campaigns on the issue. Kidbet is the first campaign commercial of it’s kind in Australia to specifically target young people in problem gambling and light-years “cooler” than this Washington State Teen-Gambling PSA.
Serge Sard, Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation says problem gambling among the youth, is alarming. “The ad is deliberately provocative because there appears to be a misplaced complacency around the issue. There’s a saturation of free game apps that encourages kids to gamble,” Adding, “There are around 2,500 virtual casinos, illegal in Australia, but are available.”
The Foundation’s chair, Bruce Singh AM commented that, “Social media promotes media activities, and gambling simulation games, that essentially teach kids how to gamble, the opportunities to gamble are unprecedented.”
Having now covered sports related gambling with this commercial, it will be interesting to see if and how the Foundation tackles the issue of social media and inside video game gambling as Kidbet evolves.
Perhaps the subtle and satirical creative strategy does need to be re-thought in light of our changing TV watching habits – especially when targeting young people. The Kidbet website FAQ states: “the commercial is being aired at times when parents are more likely to be watching particular shows with their teenage children to encourage a conversation about gambling in the family setting.” With the proliferation of TV sets and other distracting media devices in households today and the popularity of downloading or recording TV without ads, the chance of this utopian family TV viewing scenario occurring must be very slim indeed!
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation is being funded for $150 million over four years, which sounds generous, but not when put into context of the $1.74 billion this State Government collected in one year alone from gambling taxes and levies. In addition, the Government does celebrate the Melbourne Cup horse race – an event inextricably linked to gambling- by giving everyone in Melbourne a public holiday.