Have you seen the Tom Waterhouse ad? Just like the Nikon ad, there’s an X factor about it that appeals to me. Let’s take a closer look…
First of all, I must say that I am against betting agencies being able to advertise on mass media (TV, radio and print). I think this normalises gambling and will have long term negative effects on the next generation. To be clear – I’m not against gambling – just its wide spread promotion. Having said the above disclosure, Tom Waterhouse is doing what any other business would do – leveraging available media to achieve a favourable return on investment.
I really do like the Tom Waterhouse ad. He gained my trust. If I was a gambling man I would consider parking my cash at his place. So after catching the ad a few times on TV, I took a moment to examine why the ad is ticking the right boxes. Because, by knowing the techniques the ad uses, we are all better placed to learn and implement them for our own businesses.
But before we jump into understanding why the ad is a success, we must first understand the market that the ad is talking to. For any chance of success, an ad must understand the fears and motivations of its market.
Obviously, the ad is talking to the betting punters – primarily in the horse racing market. The people in this market are motivated by not losing their money and by getting hot tips / good advice to give them edge over the odds. Tom Waterhouse knows this and does a great job at allaying those fears and building those motivations. Here’s the original ad:
Looking at the above ad and his associated website, you can’t help but nod that Tom has done a good job at positioning himself as a leader in horse racing betting placement and advice. Let’s look at the factors that contribute to the success of his communications:
Image & Reputation
Betting is an environment with a high level of uncertainty. People gravitate to those that show confidence and appear to have the answers. Take a look at the ad and how it’s shot:
- Tom’s actions are slowed down and measured. There’s no surprises. People betting don’t want surprises. They want firm confidence. The way that Tom’s filmed, along with his expressions has confidence and control stamped all over it
- Tom’s filmed in black and white. This is both a nostalgic hat tip to the history of bookies and his family lineage. This helps crystallize Tom’s agency’s link with the past. The introduction of the ‘almost’ ‘Tiffany blue‘ also introduces a feeling of contemporary elegance… without sounding too pompous
- Tom is talking. There’s no voice over. Tom is talking to you one on one in a direct yet inviting tone
- Tom’s a Waterhouse: Which is horse racing royalty in Australia. Tom’s the son of Robbie and Gai Waterhouse (and grandson to Bill Waterhouse). This gives Tom instant credibility as he knows the game and is probably close to the horse trainers who have the key information.
Reaching Out to the Market
Going back to the motivations of the betting punter, Tom knows he must manage the uncertainties the market has. He does this by:
- It’s Tom. Tom is the face of his betting agency. Other betting agencies are faceless corporates. By having a face, people are better able to relate to the agency and in turn trust it
- Posting ‘to camera’ videos giving his betting advice. These are well done and are a great value ad the differentiates. In a way Tom seems to be mirroring the business model of subscription based share traders. Two quick improvements could be the addition of a lapel mic (to reduce echo) and better positioned branding that isn’t obscured
- Increase your betting IQ is the Tom Waterhouse tagline. Again, this talks directly to the inherent uncertainties that the betting market has. Tom releases regular videos and newsletters aimed at giving people info (and realistically prompting them to bet). This constant communication progressively strengthens the ties between Tom Waterhouse and the punter
- First Past the Post. This is Tom Waterhouse’s point of difference. He will pay out instantly on whichever horse pasts the post first – regardless if any protests are lodged. And if a lodged protest is upheld, he will pay out on that horse too. Now I don’t have the statistics on how may horse races protests are successfully upheld, but I’m guessing it would be minimal. But regardless, this point of difference does give the punter two benefits – instant cash payout and a better chance of winning. Great benefits.
Potential Future Brand Dangers
So all in all the Tom Waterhouse agency has positioned and executed a great ad. He also looks to have a strong brand on his hands. But while we’re talking about Tom Waterhouse, it would be remiss of me to mention the possible brand dangers the agency faces in the future. These include:
Stretching to other Sports Betting: Although Tom Waterhouse launched with a definitive ad on horse racing, he has recently released another Tom Waterhouse ad that further expands his expertise to other sports betting. It will be interesting to see how this business picks up, as I’m not he’s positioned as well in this market. As per perception – people know you are good at one thing. And people will know that Waterhouse is good at horse betting. To move this perception to other areas will require loads of cash and patience. And my knee jerk reaction would be for Tom to stay out of this market and instead just focus and own the horse racing market. His ‘betting’ brand doesn’t (yet) have the strength to stretch into other markets. And efforts to push forward into these markets may waver his focus and dilute his strong niche betting brand.
Weak Call to Action: When I first went to visit his website, I thought the url was firstpastthepost.com. Because those were the key words on at the end of the ad – and also his key differentiator. Having visited this website, it’s clear that it has nothing to do with Tom Waterhouse. This is a lesson in driving home a clear call to action and having this visible to every idiot watching. Relying on the url in his logo isn’t enough.
To be fair, Tom does verbally say the call to action. but this needs to be backed up on screen.
Whadif a Scandal? Yes having Tom as the face of the brand is a plus. But with every plus, there’s also a downside. Tom Waterhouse and Tom Waterhouse betting are 100% linked. All positive and negative PR will effect the other. If there’s a scandal, like it or not either the Tom Waterhouse persona or the Tom Waterhouse agency will be tarred with the same brush. Tom therefore has to ensure that all his dealings are squeaky clean.
Whadif Changing Business Direction? The business is clearly labelled under Tom’s name. But what if Tom wanted to sell out, or add another heavyweight to the brand. Would the Tom Waterhouse brand live on unmodified? I think not. Personally I would have named the business with a brand name, and added Tom’s name as an endorsement. E.g Tom Waterhouse’s First Past the Post. This endorsement could then be dropped or modified when needed – with the core brand – First Past the Post – remaining as is.
Sure, there’s a precedent for selling out of businesses that carry your own name (like Dick Smith), but Tom’s business model relies too much on specialist knowledge rather than full proof procedures.
Have you seen the Tom Waterhouse ad? What do you think?
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