The Effect of Advertising
Online poker rooms frequently advertise on television. These advertisements aim to increase brand awareness for the poker room as well as entice new players to sign up for an account at the poker room.
The advertisements of the various poker rooms sometimes appeal to different groups of players. Depending on how they portray their poker room, the advertisements may draw a certain type of poker player. If the advertisements tend to attract casual players, it will tend to soften the difficult of competition at the poker room. However, if the advertisements appeal more to serious poker players, it may actually cause the games to become more difficult. Here is an overview of the advertisements of some of the more popular poker sites, and my opinion on how they may affect the ease of competition at those poker rooms.
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Party Poker was the first online poker room to heavily advertise on television. This is one of the many reasons that Party Poker is currently the dominant online poker room. When all of the other poker rooms were happy with moderate growth, Party Poker pursued an aggressive marketing strategy that helped it create and solidify its position as the world's largest poker room.
While Party Poker is endorsed by famous poker player Mike Sexton, it does not employ celebrity endorsements in its advertisements. Instead, it focuses on humorous ads. Its current campaign "Bad poker face....doesn't matter when you play online" appeals to casual poker players who may be intimidated by brick and mortar poker because they are afraid of giving away too many tells.
Not only do you not need a good poker face to play online poker, Party Poker's commercials seem to send the message that you do not even need good poker skills to enjoy online poker. The actors in the Party Poker commercials portray everyday people in everyday situations. One example is where the commercial depicts the breakup of a nerdy looking couple. The man visits his girlfriend's apartment, only to find her with a not-so-intelligent looking hunk. His girlfriend dumps her nerdy boyfriend by explaining that her new hunk is " intellectually...more on her plain." To this, her new hunky boyfriends responds, "You got a plane...twin engine?"
Party Poker has many commercials like these, and they all have similar characteristics. The actors appear as typical people in normal, everyday situations. With this sort of advertisement, Party Poker sends the message that online poker is safe and ordinary for the average person. In fact, almost none of these commercials have anything to do with poker, sending the message that you do not need to even know anything about poker to enjoy online poker at Party Poker. The aim of these commercials is clearly to make casual players feel comfortable trying out Party Poker.
Since Party Poker is recruiting tons of casual players through these commercials, it is no wonder that their games are softer than most poker rooms. By advertising towards the general public, Party broadens their appeal beyond just hardcore poker players to the public at large.
Full Tilt Poker
The commercials by Full Tilt Poker serve as a direct contrast to Party Poker's. They are directed at more hardcore poker players, and may even scare away casual players from trying their poker room.
Full Tilt Poker is endorsed by many famous poker players. Full Tilt employs these celebrities in their commercials, painting itself as the poker room where you can "learn from the pros." In their commercials, the pros play against casual players and generally employ some sort of poker move to defeat them.
Being able to play with famous poker players is certainly something that many poker players would enjoy. Many hardcore, serious players would be thrilled to pit their wits against some of the famous pros.
However, these commercials probably alienate much of the general public. First, a lot of casual poker players probably do not even know who most of the pros are featured in the commercial. This may intimidate them, leading them to think they do not know enough about poker to play online poker. Furthermore, these commercials remind casual players that there is a lot of skill involved in poker; skill they probably do not have. Most people who play poker want to have fun and hopefully win a few bucks on the side; they do not have ambitions on spending dozens of hours each week studying to become a professional poker player.
Most television commercials are directed towards the general public and thus bring in many casual players. While Full Tilt spends a lot of money on television advertising, I predict that their style of commercials are not effective at bringing in casual players, though they are probably successful at targeting serious players. By focusing on a more hardcore group of players, Full Tilt's advertising campaign probably causes the competition to be tougher at its site than it would have been had it directed its advertising towards the general public.
The style of the commercials from PokerStars is somewhere in between Party Poker's and Full Tilt Poker's. They generally feature one of the WSOP champions that qualified through Poker Stars. One recent commercial simply had Greg Raymer talking to the camera, mentioning that he won the WSOP and how this changed his life forever.
These sorts of commercials appeal to both casual and serious players. While they feature a poker celebrity, they present the former WSOP champs as typical people, instead of some sort of poker gods. It leads the viewer to believe that, with a little skill and luck, he can be the next Greg Raymer or Chris Moneymaker.
More than likely, this sort of television campaign will cause the games to soften at Poker Stars. While it targets both serious and casual players, there are a lot more potential casual players watching television than hardcore players. These commercials may not do as was as Party Poker's in bringing in the fish, but they still probably get the job done.
The commercials from Poker Room are very similar to Party Poker's, though they tend to be racier. Some of the commercials are so sexually charged that I wonder how many broadcasters actually agree to air their commercials.
Like Party Poker's, Poker Room's commercials tend to depict typical people in everyday situations. Because of this, they are likely to have the same effect as Party Poker at bringing in primarily casual players.