Beyond the ADDYs: Elevating a Casino Brand

We’ve all seen the classic casino TV spot. High fives over a slot machine, sweeping in chips on the poker table, laughing while eating at a table full of food. This old and tired montage has become the standard for casino advertising… and it’s overused by everyone.

Being in the business of standing out, OH set out to brave uncharted territory to help Gila River Hotels & Casinos (GRHC) increase their brand awareness and elevate their brand identity. In a sea of sameness with an industry full of predictable advertising, OH helped GRHC stand out as the premier destination in the Valley for entertainment, ultimately bringing home 6 ADDY Awards, including Gold for integrated campaign.

What were the cornerstones that helped GRHC become the only destination in the Valley to win these awards and earn this recognition? We sat down with our creative director, Clay James, and art director, Megan Golab, to discuss how the different concepts developed, and what lessons helped guide the campaigns along the way.

In 2017, we launched two campaigns with GRHC. The first was Play On, Player to introduce the new players club program, THE Card™ by Gila River Casinos. The second campaign, You Do You, was to increase brand awareness. Both of these campaigns had two objectives: elevate GHRC’s brand in the market, and celebrate the laidback, approachable atmosphere that the Valley casino giant is famous for. We set out to inform potential guests that GRHC is a judgement-free zone that welcomes everyone, while promoting the vast opportunities for entertainment and fun available right here in Arizona.

When concepting began, we knew we needed to find the balance of the brand, the guests, and what’s going on in the current state of society. Play On, Player and You Do You helped inform potential guests that GRHC is a judgment-free zone that welcomes everyone, which is an important message considering the divisiveness in the media that’s happening every day. As we worked to identify campaigns to achieve GRHC’s goals, here are a few key cornerstones that helped guide us along the way:

Understand “the why.” We knew we needed to step into the player’s shoes to understand their desires and needs. We assessed customer feedback, industry data, and hours of research materials to understand why and how our guests interact with us. Through this process, we found our players weren’t looking for a single product or service; they were searching for an entire experience. Both the Play on Player and You Do You concepts are all about inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. We wanted campaigns that tapped into that guest mentality of why they chose to visit a casino, and invited everybody’s unique personalities to come together.

Don’t fake authenticity. GRHC is an authentic brand, which made these stories easy to tell. We wanted the campaigns to encompass what it truly means to be welcomed as you are, leaving stereotypes at the door. Whether it’s the cowboy with a fruity cocktail or the fashionista strolling through the floor with her eccentric outfit, there’s room for all walks of life at GRHC. That encouragement for you to do you existed long before this campaign, and is what makes these casinos and hotels unique.

Build brand identity. It’s easy to get carried away with a creative campaign, especially ones as vibrant as these. With business goals of increasing awareness of both the brand and the new players club, the creative needed to be linked back to unique offerings of the properties while telling the brand story. We set out to be unique enough for everyone to recognize when they were seeing a GRHC ad, while also having an understanding of both the brand essence and the variety of activities, programs and events available at the properties.

But did the award-winning creative produce the business results? After the launch of the campaign, GRHC saw a 15% increase in new member sign-ups, a 24% increase in revenue from those new members, and a 6% increase in overall play revenue.

Awards and accolades are nice, but if the work didn’t work great, then it isn’t great work at all. Through a profound understanding of our client partner and their guests, we were able to launch two successful campaigns-- and we’re excited to say that we are just getting started.