Gala Bingo calls £5m ad pitch

VCCP suffers setback as gaming giant reviews in attempt to drive sales ahead of mooted flotation.

The gambling operator, Gala Coral Group, has put its £5 million creative account up for pitch only a year after appointing VCCP.

The Haystack Group is running the pitch, with its selection process headed by Gala's marketing director, Kate Howe. The account will span consumer brands including Gala Bingo, Gala Online Gaming, Gala Casinos and Eurobet, as well as undisclosed launches.

The review follows last October's merger between Gala Bingo and the bookmaker, Coral Eurobet, in a deal worth £2.2 billion. It comes as the group attempts to drive sales growth ahead of a possible initial public offering next year.

In August, Gala's chief executive, Neil Goulden, told the Financial Times that he expected the company to float for at least £5 billion after around two years of growth.

Howe joined Gala in 2004. She was a former ad agency senior executive, with posts at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Leo Burnett.

One of her first actions in the Gala job was to appoint Tequila\ to the company's £7 million direct marketing account, following a pitch against Triangle and Poulter Partners. VCCP was appointed to Gala Bingo's creative account last September without a pitch. The agency was behind Gala Bingo's "insane" TV spot, which broke in June of this year.

The campaign runs with the strapline: "Where more people who win go," and aims to highlight the amount of money that can be won daily, and the variety of games available at Gala Bingo Halls.

Leo Burnett had handled the business since the end of 2001.

Gala is the UK's largest bingo operator and the market leader, with 32 million admissions every year and a 40 per cent share of the market. The group operates 166 bingo halls and boasts six million members.

The controversial relaxation of Britain's gaming laws has helped to transform Gala into the country's biggest private company, with sales of £7.4 billion.

Tequila\'s hold on the business is not thought to be affected by the creative pitch; neither is Mediavest Manchester's handling of media planning and buying.

Gala was unavailable to comment on the story.