Not all fun and games

Office of Problem Gambling Services, Youth & Parents

The Challenge

A risk so pervasive as to be invisible

A risk so pervasive as to be invisible

The Massachusetts Office of Problem Gambling Services (OPGS) drives the state’s public health response to problem gambling. Since 2018, Argus has been working with OPGS to develop an overarching platform and raise awareness for both the general public and for populations disproportionately affected by problem gambling.

One such population in Massachusetts is youth ages 10-12 and their parents. Youth are much more exposed to gambling today, due to legalization, and gambling in childhood can make it more likely that an individual will experience problem gambling as an adult.

We originally approached this like other campaigns, but upon testing learned that most parents did not understand why youth gambling was an issue of concern. As we learned, it’s very difficult to raise awareness of a problem that people don’t realize actually exists. Clearly, we needed to educate our audience before launching a prevention campaign.

Services Provided:

  • Strategy
  • Creative and Design
  • Content
  • UX/UI
  • Advertising
  • Social / Cause Marketing
  • Collateral
  • Research
  • Motion / Graphics / Animation
  • Website

The Solution

Getting parents to start the conversation

To achieve this, we needed to find a way to talk about problem gambling that did not alienate parents or youth. Our solution: a toolkit that used plain facts and fun activities to help parents understand the relationship between youth risky behavior and gambling. The toolkit included games and activities as conversation starters about gambling, understanding the odds, and the potential impact of gambling behavior on developing brains. We engaged parents on familiar subjects like drugs and alcohol, making the case that gambling could have a similar impact on youth’s emotional future. What starts as “just a game” could turn into an unhealthy relationship with risk that lasts a lifetime.

After a successful test of a digital version in 2020, we worked with OPGS to expand both reach and impact with a revised version of the toolkit. To guide our process, we conducted research with 20 sets of youth ages 10-12 and a parent or guardian over Zoom. The pairs went through the toolkit and did the activities together, and then gave us feedback on what they liked and what they would change. The two most common words used to describe the toolkit were “informative” and “eye-opening.” All participating parents found the toolkit very or somewhat useful.

Based on our findings, we added a youth-friendly definition of gambling, new parent prompts for conversations for each activity, and revised the introductory language to ensure that parents would not feel guilty for being unfamiliar with the risks of gambling for their child. In tandem, we also developed a printed version with playable game boards, cards, and pieces, as well as a booklet containing all of the tips, stats, and conversation starters for parents, available in both Spanish and English. We also created a website where the games and information could be accessed online.

To help make the material more approachable and exciting, we created an animated music video for the website, featuring a character named Jack rapping about the effects of gambling on his developing brain. We also ran an ad campaign in English and Spanish across display, YouTube, preroll, and Meta channels to direct traffic to the site.

The Results

A message sent and received

The campaign ran for two months and delivered over 6.5 million impressions and over 18,000 visits to the landing page. All channels performed at or above benchmark, with preroll and YouTube doing especially well with a 1.01% CTR and a 58.07% VCR respectively. The campaign will continue to run on an annual basis, and will expand to include static ads to bolster reach across all channels.