Innovative AB&C Gambling Addiction Campaign Wins Top Prize

AB&C’s Don Ciccanowski campaign for the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems featured the character played by local DJ and actor Allen Hite. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DCGP

WILMINGTON-The Delaware Council on Problem Gambling (DCGP) has the unenviable task of promoting gambling addiction resources in a modern age where sportsbooks, casinos and fantasy sports spend billions every year to promote their offerings.

In contrast, the nonprofit organization funded by the Delaware Division of Addiction and Mental Health has less than $2 million in annual revenue.

This is what prompted the council to get creative in its approach to reaching the masses and how its advertising agency, Aloysious Butler & Clark (AB&C) in Wilmington, recently scored a major blow in a successful marketing campaign.

“We wanted something a little different and we offered it to Steve and the team, and he came back and said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to like this. It’s a bit exaggerated. And I returned it. I loved every second,” Arlene Simon, executive director of DCGP, told the Delaware Business Times.

What she loved, or better yet who, was the so-called Don Ciccanowski campaign.

Featuring fictional sports betting guru “Don Ciccanowski”, the over-the-top campaign promoted betting information that turned out to be bait and switch, asking visitors if they might have a gambling problem s ‘they wished to receive advice from such a character.

The DCGP has been working with AB&C for more than seven years on its marketing campaigns, but it was the most original idea they had ever tried. The 10-month campaign, which was broadcast on TV, social media and in print, won Best in Show at the recent Healthcare Advertising Awards, beating out more than 4,400 other entries nationwide. in one of the 10 largest annual publicity contests.

“Someone on our team suggested that in this gaming space right now, there are so many players, and everyone is spending a lot of money to have a celebrity face. So we said: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we created our own character who was a bit of a ball of sleaze?’ recalled Steve Merino, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer at AB&C.

Playing the eponymous role of “Don Ciccanowski” — Merino said the name was a throwback to a kid he knew growing up — AB&C auditioned and selected the local Delaware DJ. Allen Hitwho could play the required slapstick routine, but also strike a more serious tone when gambling addiction was finally discussed.

AB&C created advertisements focused on a variety of sports betting scenarios, from horse racing to basketball to football, and timed their releases around times of interest, such as the Triple Crown races, the Super Bowl and March Madness. Viewers were directed to a special website, DonKnowsBets.comwhere the ruse was revealed and where resources may have been passed on.

According to the DCPG, the ad generated more than 20,000 visits to the website and nearly 160 calls/texts and interactions with the organization’s live chat support line. It has also had nearly 3 million web impressions and over 1 million views of Don Ciccanowski’s videos.

“They’re fighting so many people and you have to do something different to get some attention,” Merino said, thanking the council for taking on a very different idea than most healthcare players are. accustomed.

As online sports betting and fantasy sports betting grow precipitously in America following the landmark 2018 Supreme Court ruling, those seeking help for gambling addiction are getting younger, said Simon. It’s one of the reasons the Ciccanowski campaign, which has played extensively on streaming and social media platforms, has been so effective.

The DCPG was delighted to hear that the campaign created by AB&C was receiving national recognition, and Simon hoped it would help similar organizations across the country reach those in need. However, the work is far from over and she is already thinking about a new campaign.

“Video gaming is the next big thing when it comes to problem gambling. The American Pediatric Academy has now officially declared this to be a precursor to serious problem gambling,” said Simon, noting that teachers and parents have contacted the DCPG concerned that children are playing video games for long periods of time – a concern compounded by COVID. -19 pandemic and the growing use of microtransactions in games.

“For the past two years, kids have sat in front of their screens because they really had nothing else to do. It has become a problem, and we would really like to work on a campaign to address it,” she added.

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