The Story Behind the Story
Prairie Band Casino is a gaming property located north of Topeka, Kansas. Gaming in Kansas is a mature hospitality industry, and Prairie Band Casino is surrounded by competitors. The first job advertising must accomplish, to even begin to be effective, is to be noticed. The majority of Prairie Band Casino’s competitors utilize standard imagery of ‘fun, smiling winners’ to bring their offerings to the public’s attention. If Prairie Band Casino’s advertising were to fit into the ‘expected’ creative range of casino advertising, the result would be in effect to say “We’re here, just like the others.”
Prairie Band’s marketing efforts in this television campaign were carefully crafted to utilize what is known in scientific circles as The Zeigarnik Effect, which is defined by a person’s inability to forget unfinished tasks. This is why soap operas are so ‘infectious’ as they keep stringing the viewer along week by week, and also why people continue to watch for conclusions to the drama. Our compulsion for completion drives us to finish a storyline – not doing so makes us uncomfortable. A Purdue study found that 52.4% of subjects had improved recall of unfinished commercials and an average memory advantage of 90% when it came to recalling interrupted tasks. During a suspenseful story, our attention doesn’t wander beyond the moment we’re in. When we can’t predict the outcome, we are forced to pay attention until we’ve reduced our uncertainty.
Prairie Band’s marketing team took advantage of this built-in human propensity to garner attention by creating commercials that, on the surface, appear to be totally foreign to any ‘standard approach’ to show the property’s amenities and offerings. The commercials set up what is designed to be a somewhat controversial setting: the relationship between an older man and a much younger woman. Over time the series revealed that the relationship which was ‘uncomfortable’ was resolved by the revelation that the relationship between the actors was in fact completely benign and completely socially acceptable. The reactions received so far via social media posts confirm that the commercials at this point in time have done their job, with over 26,000 Facebook views and many comments, a percentage being negative and insulting.
In short, the opening salvos of the campaign have done exceptionally well, sparking conversations both positive and negative about the campaign. Overall this is a win as the intention of these introductory commercials was to ‘get noticed’. Upcoming commercials lean less on the inter-personal drama and, now that we have the audience’s attention, begin to show the amenities and activities available at Prairie Band Casino and Resort to a ‘primed’ audience that is waiting to see what will come next.