An Open letter to Betfair about its ad, Power to the Punter

Betfair, your 2012 Annual Report claims that putting the customer at the heart of everything you do is a central platform of your values and success. The question is who is your customer and is that something you care about? Equally, you want your “people” (employees) to be inspired, engaged and developed.

I suspect you have, at least, a mild interest in engaging females in your business activities as customers and employees. On page 16 of your 2012 Annual report there is an image of a set of people spread out in a line. Even though the image is a silhouette of the human form it is easy to identify at least 9 people (of 17) in the image as being female representations.

So, I want to discuss a Betfair ad that is currently screening on free to air TV, and I presume other formats. If part of your customer base and employee base is female Betfair, then this ad, far from inspiring and engaging and putting them at the heart of what you do, is more likely to alienate them in it representation of females. It will also alienate males with even a passing interest in gender equity. At the very least, it alienates me.

The ad purports to be jokey and a bit of fun. It uses irony but in a way that would have Jonathon Swift rolling in his grave. Not as a satirical device to highlight great injustice but to mask the greater concerns and shortcomings of the activity it is promoting.

Like many others of its type this is an ad that could easily come and go, without its connotations being noticed or taken seriously. It is the sort of ad that some might claim I’m making too much fuss about. However, because of how clearly drawn are its characters and narrative, it should be held up to the light, for critical inspection. If a company wants to talk to me about what it can offer me, then I feel bound to talk right back about what I think the company is actually saying and implying.

The ad I’m talking about is this one:

For the purpose of my point I’ll go straight past the core message that betting (or punting) could make you extremely wealthy, as problematic as that message is. I’m more concerned with the next level messages.

To begin with, is this ad (entitled Power to the Punter) aimed at existing and potential punters? If so, the best I could tell from the ad is that a punter is a male, a bit cool, a bit witty, a bit of a lair and a bit handsome but, significantly, a male. This is far removed from one of Melbourne’s great live music pubs of the past which was called The Punters Club. My memory of that joint was that it was exclusively for both genders. So Betfair, in your view, is a punter a male or a female or both? What possess you to advertise your wares with such an explicit definition of what you call a punter that, well, basically excludes half the population from your narrative?

Wait a minute, silly me, females are represented in your narrative. As a bikini clad thing the main protagonist ‘uses’ for enjoyment. In the punter’s fantasy (which is Betfair’s narrative) the girl is half naked, while he remains smartly attired in a suit. C’mon Betfair, be fair. Where the hell do you get off representing females as plaything to be used and discarded at will? Sure, couch it in a jokey, bit of fun, context as if that forgives the central premise. I respect your courage, not.

Even more dispiriting is what happens next. The punter (male) tiring of his female plaything then plays table tennis against a range of other people. These are as follows, cricketer (male), volleyball player (male), jockey (male), tennis player (male) and racing car driver (male). That’s right. Every male has an occupation. The female is just there, in bikini, without identity. When we first meet her she doesn’t even have a head. She is shot from behind so we can well and truly see (appreciate?) her behind.

I don’t think it is enough to simply dismiss ads and this type of representation as if they have no power. Betfair would have outlaid hundreds of thousands of dollars making the ad and then having it screen nationally. Betfair has an investment in this ad and therefore it has a responsibility to what is said in the ad and what is implied. To borrow Waleed Aly’s analysis of racism (in an essay he wrote for The Age, 5 April 2013), this ad can be read as “subterranean sexism that goes largely unremarked upon and that we seem unable even to detect”.

Betfair, I think you could and should do better. Much better. This 30 second ad is one more message that ingrains a set of ideas and social structures about the value of men (punters) and women (playthings for men). Is that Befair’s intention? Is that how you want us to be inspired and engaged? I would like to know.

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day


  1. Well said Rick. A pox on all the betting agencies I say. They add nothing to this world but pain.

  2. Good stuff Rick. All is forgiven for last Friday night. The Peptide Parolees will need to work much harder for eventual forgiveness.
    Corporate bookies are totally amoral. They would sell their grannie for a .001% increase in turnover and hence bottom line.
    Nothing will change their breathtaking cynicism and exploitation, save for government regulation. And given that government coffers share in the drip feed I am not holding my breath.
    The best hope is what you are doing and I intend to do more of. Raise awareness of the pestilence before it consumes you, your family, your friends or our society.

  3. Meritorious rant Kaney. These betting agencies are truly insidious. The way they portrait gambling as sexy and fun is an outrage. Basically they are in the business of ruining lives and how they sleep nights is beyond comprehension. Keep up your attack.

  4. Monica Kane says

    Nepotism aside, great analysis Rick. I’m on the train atm, so haven’t watched the ad. But barely need to. Seen it and heard it all before. It bores us so much it can easily be unremarkable. Truth is, its not. It’s gutless advertising, and its an ugly perpetuation of a worldview that is outdated.
    Cheers for saying it.

  5. Interesting. All betting agencies say Gamble responsibly. Thereby pushing the idea that you Should in fact gamble, not like In in fact you make a decision to gamble yourself, then watch your money. But no, that would be showing too much care for the dummy with the money, and believe me, all betting agencies see the punter as the dummy with the money

  6. daniel flesch says

    Gawd ! just watched the ad on youtube. Truly phenomenally hideous. But… sorry , can’t help feeling nobody could be taken in by such obvious garbage . People aren’t that stupid , surely ? Am also faintly contemptuous of the actors who took the money for appearing in that ad. Only excuse would be they had to do it to stave off starvation.(Same goes for those that posed as hard-working Aussies in Gina Hardheart’s anti mining super profits tax ads . Would call them prostitutes if it wasn’t an insult to the real thing.)

  7. get a life and stop seaking to take offence.
    as a backyard ping pong player, loved the ad!

  8. is it wrong of me to say that I actually hadn’t noticed the sexism because I was too busy perving on the gorgeous man in the suit? That, and I’m completely de-sensitised to singleton style baby boomer boy ads. Who’s the ad for again?
    But yeah I agree.. shameful and not particularly creative or memorable.

  9. Steve Fahey says

    Well expressed Rick, I missed the original post back in June

    belonged to the 1970s this sort of stuff, as a society we can and need to do better than that

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Average add yep as a bloke attractive lady is it going to make me have a bet no just like the Benson and Hedges, sign at each end of a cricket venue did not tempt me to have a smoke . I think back to as a teen was it advertising which made you have a drink no peer pressure and the wish to fit in , advertising in what we decide to do is over ratedin my book

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