Media Perspective: There's no bookies' favourite to emerge in betting ad market

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I'm enjoying ITV's new HD channel. Obviously, watching the greased-up mop on the screamingly gorgeous football pundit Gareth Southgate in 960x1088 pixels is a delight in itself.

And how exciting is it to be talking about ITV, which is now all Crozier'd and Lygo'd up, in positive terms again? The great thing about sport on ITV in HD is that it's an epic showcase for exceptional advertising and, even better, ad agencies seem to have got around to making these spots again after spending 2009 twiddling their thumbs.

The Sony and John Lewis ads make for a refreshing break from Champions League action and the agencies involved (Anomaly and Adam & Eve) deserve a slap on the back for creating such engaging commercial content. Not every advertiser and agency is so deserving, though.

Watching football on telly can be a bit of a nightmare due to the repetitive and derivative nature of the majority of football-related ads that populate half-time. And betting companies have become the greatest sinners.

There's a slurry of betting ads on TV at the moment as, in the pre-World Cup land-grab, the gambling sector takes over from the price-comparison market as the most hard-fought in advertising. But a meerkat equivalent has yet to emerge from all this.

While the bullish state of the gambling market has been excellent news for media agencies (the likes of the7stars, Initiative and Universal McCann have all won big accounts in the past year from betting companies), the dross on show hasn't reflected the hard work of these agencies. Maybe the Betfair ads, annoyingly laddish and out of date creatively as they are, deserve to be exempt because they at least attempt to convey the excitement of "in-game" betting by shooting relevant executions for big games. The rest are bobbins, though.

It's soul-destroying as a football supporter to sit through that patronising dross that masquerades as a William Hill commercial (see my elegant Turkey of the Week on the inside back page). A once-great brand has been reduced to an also-ran attempting to conjure up a brand identity to compete with the up-and-coming, and exciting, likes of Paddy Power and Betfred.

If there's such a thing in 2010, though, as a brand that makes the best use of media with the budget it's got, I'd like to nominate Paddy Power as an early contender. For me, its TV creative misses the mark but it's willing to take risks and doesn't have a media strategy that is overly reliant on buying up loads of TV inventory. Hats off to the guys at Paddy Power and its media agency, M2M, for inspired virals and Hollywood-style signs at the races. Exciting as HD TV can be, it's not the only solution.

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