It has become increasingly common for companies to name and flatteringly compare themselves with their rivals in their advertising. But literally visiting a competing outlet and urging punters to visit your store instead is a move that some, including one Labour MP, consider a step too far.
In a story from the Guardian, bosses at William Hill urged their staff to employ just such tactics recently when they instructed them to descend upon rival bookmakers with torches in hand.
“Let’s get disruptive and make sure their punters see the light!” an internal memo to William Hill staff read, referring to the fact that the popular bookmaker is one of the few that is legally allowed to broadcast the Racing Partnership channel within its stores. Ladbrokes-Coral and Betfred recently decided to stop receiving live streams of races in a dispute over the fees charged by the channel’s owner.
Introducing what management dubbed the “torch challenge”, the memo then told staff to “grab a torch and shine it around your local competitor,” instructing staff to direct lights through shop windows to an attempt to catch customers’ attention and, with the additional incentive of free bets, lure them into a William Hill shop instead.
Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, slammed the stunt, saying that it showed a lack of respect for gamblers.
“This is indicative of the way they [bookmakers] treat people,” the MP is quoted as saying. ”It’s like two dogs fighting over a piece of meat and they’re prepared to go to any lengths. It’s pretty appalling.”
William Hill, however, said that the stunt was intended merely as “a bit of fun to highlight that we have a product that our competitors don’t”.
Precisely how many William Hill employees followed the memo’s advice isn’t known, nor how many punters were tempted to defect as a result. But a spokesperson from competitor Ladbrokes said that they were “confident” that their customers would appreciate what the bookmaker already offered, and was “not surprised” that William Hill should want a slice of their pie.