Harrah’s ads hit the mark

May 7, 2002 9:05 AM

Television ads for casinos or gaming in general are a relatively new phenomenon ”” they were virtually unheard of (if not unacceptable) as little as 10 years ago.

But as commercial gambling has entered the mainstream, so has its advertising campaigns. That became evident last month when Harrah’s Entertainment’s (HET) "Oh Yeah!" television ads took top honors in the 23rd Annual Telly Awards competition.

The awards were a first for a commercial casino operator, and they mark the first time a national brand-wide gaming ad campaign achieved such an honor.

"Four years ago, we set out to establish Harrah’s as the preeminent brand in the casino entertainment industry through an ambitious and inventive marketing strategy," said Gary Loveman, Harrah’s president and chief operating officer. "These prestigious awards symbolize the quality of that effort. I’m very proud of the research and creativity embodied in our advertising, and these awards are a credit to our corporate marketing team."

In creating the ads, the marketing team set out to strengthen and reinforce the Harrah’s brand in the casino market, according to Amanda Totaro, vice president of brand marketing for Harrah’s.

"Strength of brand is crucial," Totaro told GamingToday last week. "Proper brand marketing results in a loyalty factor with the customer, who makes an emotional connection to your company."

The award-winning Harrah’s commercial features a woman slot player becoming increasingly excited as her score increases on the machine’s win meter.

Totaro said that every element of the 30-second commercial was carefully choreographed, like an audio and visual checklist of touchstone moments for casino players. From spinning slot reels and flashing lights backed by 1950s rock music, to triple sevens and quickly-rising win meter, the ads capture the emotions players feel.

"It was important to appeal to our customers on the emotional level and bring to life the excitement of playing at Harrah’s," Totaro said. "The ads communicate a compelling brand image while delivering our retail messages."

Totaro added that focusing on brand marketing ”” as opposed to delivering "transaction" messages”” has been a Harrah’s "prowess and commitment" for the past four years. "We believe in the power of brands," she said.

To be able to deliver a strategic, powerful and effective brand message requires an intimate knowledge of Harrah’s customers, Totaro said.

"Everything is based on customer research," she said. "Extensive customer research efforts are necessary to develop a deep knowledge and thorough understanding of our customers.

"It is through this understanding," she continued, "that we are able to develop new and innovative brand messages."

While clever ads may win industry awards, their effectiveness must be measured in more tangible terms, Totaro said.

"The feedback we’ve received from customers is that the ads are appealing to them on an emotional level," she said. "We determine this through research. Basically, we ask our customers, the target audience, and they tell us."

The award-winning Harrah’s commercials have been airing for about a year. They were created by Dallas-based Tracey Locke Partnership.

"We are ecstatic to have achieved creative recognition for our Harrah’s work," said Bob Chimbel, Tracey Locke Partnership’s president and chief creative officer. "Television is an important part of our clients marketing program and given Harrah’s record performance this past year, it’s proof that great creative moves the sales needle."