Betfair told to “cut out the middle man”

A Betfair TV campaign has been banned after the advertising regulator ruled the claim its fan-to-fan betting structure could boost winnings compared with traditional bookmakers was misleading.

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The Advertising Standards Authority said the ad’s failure to clarify Betfair takes commission on winning bets and its claim that it “cuts out the middle man” could confuse and mislead viewers about the service.

The ad featured two men in a pub discussing a sports match who are interrupted by a third “middle man”, passing comments between the pair before being hit in the face by an animated mouse cursor. A voice-over then stated: “on Betfair, you cut out the middle man, which means you could win bigger”.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that although Betfair’s betting exchange differs from traditional bookmakers, the description “cutting out the middleman” was ambiguous and misleading because the site takes a 5% commission fee on winnings, which could be perceived as a middleman role.

The advertising regulator added that Betfair’s failure to mention its commission structure in the ad could mislead viewers to believing they would not incur any charges.

In response, Betfair said its claims were accurate because its charging mechanism is “more transparent and straightforward than that of a traditional bookmaker” and that the in-ad text stating that terms and conditions applied was sufficient.

It added that its “cut out the middleman” claim was justified because the ad was an illustration of how individuals can bet fan-to-fan rather than through a traditional bookmaker.

The ASA ruled that the ad must not broadcast again in its current form.

Readers' comments (8)

  • It seems like the most stupid advertising concept ever, and the ASA have probably done Betfair a favour by getting them to actually have a think who they are, and what product they actually sell.

    The whole concept behind this advert was flawed, and a textbook example of a campaign forgetting that it's supposed to resonate with customers, not just executives at the client.

    The only people who would think of a traditional bookmaker as a middleman would be executives at Betfair. Prospective customers aren't going to think that. If I have a tenner on Chelsea with Ladbrokes, I think I'm betting against Ladbrokes. I'm never going to rationalise them as a middleman between myself and people betting on Liverpool, whose betting I never witness.

    Why would I want to go to Betfair to cut out the middleman if it's never going to occur to me that I'm betting with a middleman now?

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  • I’m not sure that I agree with your analysis on this David. I don’t disagree with your opening remarks, however I think you miss the point a bit about whether or not prospective punters are going to “rationalise” traditional bookies as middlemen.

    Prospective Paddy Power punters probably don’t believe that a real cat was kicked up into a tree by a real blind man. Prospective William Hill punters probably don’t believe that ‘unlucky Nev‘ really did miss the match day bus. And prospective Ladbrokes punters probably don’t believe that our World Cup 2010 heroes were “well up for it” in the schoolboy smutty sexual innuendo way suggested by the scantily clad showgirls. Actually, I take that one back. Maybe they did. All great adverts by the way!

    It all boils down to semantics and the ASA ruling, no doubt fuelled by loads of indignant potential punters (most of whom happen to work for traditional bookies I’d wager) kind of misses the point for me.

    Like it or loathe it, the Betfair advert was simply a tongue-in-cheek pop at traditional bookmakers, whose whole business model is predicated on the fact that most punters don’t bother to “rationalise” that the traditional ‘middleman’ bookmaking model costs them significantly more than the cheaper, far more efficient exchange betting model. The message was quite clear to me. Bet at Betfair and your wins will be bigger.

    By the way, just a wild stab in the dark, but are you David Williams, Head of Consumer PR at Ladbrokes? Apologies if I've got that wrong...

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  • If I have a tenner on Chelsea with Ladbrokes then, most probably, I'll win less than I would so at Betfair.

    The exchange missed a trick in this campaign in that their odds - even allowing for commission - are better than their last century competitors and lead to higher returned for punters.

    The Betfair did grab your attention in a way that - for example - the Ladbrokes 'chav cafe' featuring Kamara & co didn't. (And while I'm on the subject should Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist be allowed to bet on football?)

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  • sorry guys, this it the most crap advert ever, I bet it cost a few quid, the agency who made it should be named and shamed, and the exec who paid for it - should get his "award" as well..

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  • Ahem....Jon - re your comments 'By the way, just a wild stab in the dark, but are you David Williams, Head of Consumer PR at Ladbrokes? Apologies if I've got that wrong...'

    Jon - were you the former internal head of comms in Betfair but now at Pokerstars?

    The advert was rubbish - the ASA did the betfair share price a favour by pulling it! As for the guys who sponsored this...they'll carry on sponsoring marketing campaigns that are not that great....

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  • How about an advert that actually sells our unique product, as opposed to one that seeks to attempt to rubbish the opposition?

    It's no wonder that Paddy Power & Bet365 are wiping the floor with Betfair in terms of marketing.

    Not only do they push the typical traditional bookmaking service (which many are familiar with) but they have promoted the in-play aspect effectively too...which as we know, is supposed to be one of our main strengths.

    I agree that the ASA have done a favour by banning the ad and hopefully it will be destined for the history bin...permanently.

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  • This is undoubtedly the result of a series of complaints initiated by the major bookmakers. As far as I can make out and in my experience as a customer of Betfair (declaring an interest!!) it is FACT that the odds are almost always better by a significant margin than when betting with the traditional bookmakers. I agree that the advertising that the Paddy Powers of this world are doing is better than that being done by Betfair but that is simply an effort to disguise the fact that Betfair offers far better value. I personally liked the 'middle man' ad and understood immediately what the message was.

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  • David - 100% agree that your average Jo Bloggs would not class their bookmaker as a middle man and thefore tehe traget audience for this ad would have been confused right from the start - an attempt to try and be clever again when all it needs is simple facts backed up by a good product - none of which at the moment Betfair is capable of doing

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