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[CMO] Arno de Jong of the Dutch Lottery: ‘As a marketer you always have to be a creative thinker’

Arno de Jong is CMO of the Dutch Lottery and has won a tranche of awards, including the title Marketeer of the Year, thanks to successful campaigns for the Staatsloterij and Toto. About marketing, King Toto, online gaming, corona crisis and the will to always win: “I’m a bad loser.”

Dutch Lottery is the name behind seven well-known games of chance: Staatsloterij, Lotto, Eurojackpot, Million Game, Lucky Day, Scratch Cards and Toto. The organization’s mission is to contribute to a happy, healthy and sporty Netherlands. The Dutch Lottery (1.3 billion euro turnover per year) is about winning, but in the broadest sense of the word: in addition to millions in prize money for the participants, the organization gives almost the entire result every year (last year about 170 million euros) back to the Netherlands, Dutch sports and eighteen charities in the field of health and exercise. The pay-off is therefore not without reason: “Dutch Lottery, where the whole of the Netherlands wins.
Dutch Lottery has existed since 2016 when it was decided to merge the State Lottery with Lotto (formerly the National Sports Totalizer Foundation). That was the prelude to collecting all game brands in one organization. Arno de Jong was cold at Lotto for 1.5 years. In fact, he was the quartermaster to make this impactful merger commercially successful. His experience and knowledge from his time at de Persgroep (AD) and Fox (Eredivisie Live) naturally came in handy. A Dutch Lottery family was created that offered enormous marketing opportunities.
After a thorough review, the merger of all game variants led to a new brand hierarchy, (digital) marketing strategy and corporate branding approach. In addition, three new agencies, TBWA, Selmore and recently Dept, were selected to do this marketing and advertising job. Since then, professional awards – especially for the advertising of King Toto and Staatsloterij’s Frekkel and Freddie – have continued to pour in. Now the balance is: two Golden Loekis, two golden Effies, silver Effie, Advertiser of the Year and countless San Accents. There was also European praise. Frekkel became European Lottery Campaign of the Year.

Despite the well-stocked trophy cabinet, you remain modest. Not feeling a bit Marketing King of the Netherlands?
Decidedly, “No, please say. I have not suddenly become another marketer because of that. Incidentally, we did not participate so fanatically until recently. You also have personal and, say, business awards for the campaigns. What I particularly like about the awards is the registration. It may sound crazy, but writing the case gives a good overview of what and why we have done exactly something. In retrospect, you experience the approach again and you learn from it. I recommend it to everyone. If you win then, the prize is a great driver of pride in your company. And extra if you win the Golden Loeki twice, because that is in fact a prize that is celebrated by everyone in the company, from high to low. And an award is a great way to attract new people. People want to work for an award-winning company, it’s as simple as that. “

Don’t you personally have to do the title Marketeer of the Year?
“Yes okay, that is really a very honorable title. After all, I don’t win from the first best. The presentation this year was very special. I was watching at home about corona, of course, with my girlfriend and daughter on the couch. Very surreal. It was like watching an exciting football game with a nice ending. We have of course celebrated well with the three of us. The title feels like a crown to me, all the more because I knew very early on in my studies that I wanted to become a marketer. Marketing is really my passion. “

Winning is central to this organization. Then you almost always want to win?
“Admittedly, I am a bad loser. If I participate then I want to win, yes, that’s true. And if we send in, we also go for gold, and not for silver or bronze. But ultimately it is all about the business result, we are here to create a good company and awards are a nice extra. I always say: the best price is still a growing turnover. “

Winning is even in your pay-off …
“Yes, the Dutch Lottery actually wins the whole of the Netherlands. Our profit goes back to the Netherlands in the sense of financial support from the Netherlands, sports and charities. 45 million go to sports every year. For example, together with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, we are the largest financier of NOC * NSF. In addition, many millions go to charity. As an organization, we want to be a successful club, serving civil society. In addition to the fact that the profit flows back to society, this also means in concrete terms: not allowing minors, not allowing excessive gaming behavior (read: preventing gambling addiction) and continuously ensuring an attractive range of games so that we prevent people from ending up in the illegal circuit. “

Yet that is always an exciting balance. You simply offer something that can be addictive.
“In our marketing we must therefore take this into account very consciously: within the framework of CRM and advertising there are strict rules to protect people. Online players at the Dutch Lottery can only play with an online account with IDIN (age verification), which means that minors will automatically lose weight, they cannot play with us. There is really an extensive control system that must prevent people from becoming addicted or displaying exorbitant gaming behavior. We aim for that. Gambling is a social phenomenon. It is our job to organize a legal and responsible range of fun games. An important task of marketing is to point out to Dutch players that this legal offer exists. At the same time, we are well aware that there are risks associated with gambling. So the discussion is nuanced. “

In this context, a while ago – up to the House of Representatives – the discussion about King Toto and minors raged. The TV commercials with rap music would encourage the youth to gamble?
“As I said, minors cannot play with us. King Toto is aimed at 21-year-olds and older. And because it is rap, would it be aimed at adolescents? I find that very short-sighted. I also like to listen to that music myself and I am no longer an adolescent! But more importantly, rapper Donnie is not the campaign. The concept behind it is that we connect rap and football. Rap is the language of today and football is connected to it. Our campaign includes people in their twenties, but also older football icons such as Jan Boskamp and Sjaak Swart. Our message is: Toto is for every age. At that time we started with Royston Drenthe and Johan Derksen as a sidekick. But Drenthe went back to playing football at Sparta. We did not want an active football player to become the game’s ambassador. Then, after a careful screening, rapper Donnie succeeded him. It has indeed proved very successful, even outside of Toto. He came in at some point DWDD but also with Zapp, Yes, then we talked for a while. Is this useful, because he should not become a child star? We did not think this was a positive development for Toto, but no limit has been exceeded. In the end we made a choice for renewal with a new king Toto. In December 2019, the collaboration with Donnie ended. Who is the new king? No, I’m not saying that yet, just wait until the football league starts again. “

Almost unnecessary question, but marketing – and therefore also the CMO – is firmly anchored at the Dutch Lottery?
“In fact, we are one large marketing organization with a very large IT component or vice versa. We largely supply a digital product with a turnover of 1.3 billion euros and with 300 employees, 100 of whom are marketers. We are one of the largest advertisers in the Netherlands. Marketing is truly one of the most important disciplines and is reflected throughout the organization. In planning, marketing is a constant factor and it could affect us all, you might say. As CMO I am leading in this, but everyone in our management and our organization plays an important role in this. After all, the customer is not only of the CMO or the marketing discipline. If, for example, IT or retail does not think along fully, then you will not do anything. In purely financial terms, the CMO is responsible for P&L [Profit & Loss, red.] of our brands and at the same time you say that marketing has an important business function here. “

About four years ago Staatsloterij and Lotto merged. That was also the signal to put all other games under one name, Dutch Lottery. The start to make real money?
“Well, we did make money back then, but with the merger we got a lot more power and synergy benefits. Dutch Lottery is stronger, more future-proof than its predecessors and much more innovation is unleashed. At the start there was 1 billion turnover, we are now at 1.3 billion euros. The advantage is of course that we as one party can better prepare for the opening of the online gaming market, expected in 2021. Many Dutch people already play online games as an online casino, but unfortunately – due to the lack of a regulated market – in the gray circuit. In addition, players are unprotected and the financial structures are not always clear. If the market is regulated in 2021, we also want to play an important role in online gaming. An exciting adventure, because it has a very different dynamic than, for example, the State Lottery where you sometimes have to wait a month for the draw. Online gaming is fast, dynamic and you immediately have money in your account. Now it is still a jungle, but in 2021 everyone will have to follow the rules. And of course there will be competition, but we are ready for it. “

With unification has there also been an unambiguous marketing strategy?
“Parallel to the merger, the seven game brands were examined with the central question: how can you plot the brands in such a way that you achieve maximum results for the total? We did an extensive brand exercise together with the agencies and looked at how best to position each game. Not only holistic, the games are also put down stronger, such as Eurojackpot for newcomers in the category, State Lottery for the whole of the Netherlands and Lotto for experienced category buyers. In addition to this process, a digital exercise has also been carried out. We have realized one online platform from the Dutch Lottery, where everything comes together. The advantage is that we can point the players to other games and our Responsible Gaming policy. In addition, players can find theirs here wallet we manage and, within the privacy limits, of course, see what people do and want. In that process, the seven different databases were merged. This leads to more efficiency and overview. “

To what extent is it important that we know that there is such a thing as the Dutch Lottery?
“If you mean the whole of the Netherlands: in principle limited. It is especially important for our existing players. We build the brand based on the strength of our brands. When you eventually play with us, you will automatically come to our platform where we can tell relevant messages about sports and charities. Example: the corona crisis leads to the Olympics and the European Championship not trough. Together with NOC * NSF, we have used the marketing budgets for campaigns for these sport events for sports, both in top sport and recreational sport. We think this is important to let our players know. We will also work with eighteen charities and NOC * NSF on the healthiest generation in 2040. For that project, we released 1 million euros from our marketing budget. We communicated this to our stakeholders and customers via social media and CRM. We continuously let you know that the Netherlands can count on us. “

A word on corona: have you had to adjust a lot in terms of marketing?
“A comprehensive step-by-step plan was made as soon as corona became current, with attention to the safety of our people and relations, our commercial strength, the processes and the financial strength. The essential question in that process was whether we should continue to draw. They stopped in Spain and Italy. Logical also because there is mainly played through retail. Here in the Netherlands too, but a lot less. Yet the question remained: how safe can we still offer it in retail? And how are we going to tell that from marketing? In the end we decided to continue with the draws. Customers were eager and the sport and charities also saw their funding dry up. So it was discussed with parties such as Albert Heijn and Primera how we could still offer this safely. Then you will see how you will set up marketing per brand with an even sharper eye for emotions, credibility and relevance. The Kingsday trekking of the Staatsloterij has become really successful with a modest and empathetic video with Eurovision singer Jeangu Macrooy. The result in terms of lottery sales was almost as good as normal. Lotto’s campaign with chef Robert Kranenborg, in which a trucker winner builds his own tent and treats all his colleagues to Kranenborg’s special meatball, was suddenly misplaced due to the one and a half meter distance. We stopped that campaign and converted the concept into a sympathetic thank you for thousands of truckers who kept driving and provided the Netherlands with necessary items, such as toilet paper (laughs). We offered thousands of truckers a sandwich ball in the restos that were still open. With Scratch Cards and Toto we have taken a step back in connection with corona and the fact that the football league is standing still. We therefore looked at the situation per game and campaign and acted on it, with the result that we kept the loss very limited. “

Do you have a motto in life?
“No, not really, I’m not one of the creeds. I think it is important that you respect everyone around you. You try to do it all together, business, but also in other situations. “

Why did you choose marketing and what could you have done?
“I already knew it in the first year of my studies. I did Heao CE and then studied Business Economics in Groningen during the time of Prof. Peter Leeflang and Dr. Janny Hoekstra. Why? I find the combination of business and creativity fascinating. You really delve into the consumer, what moves him or her and that you then adjust your policy accordingly. That process fascinates me immensely. What would I do without marketing? Are very busy with Spain. Spain is really my second love. Besides studying Business Economics I have studied Spanish language and literature, I have lived there and I almost always go on holiday there. “

In marketing, you always have a recurring discussion about what determines success: marketing or creativity? How do you see that?
“I think marketing is actually applied creativity. We are a data driven company, but it is precisely the combination of data driven and creativity that makes our work so exciting. You sketch it as a contradiction, but it is not for me. I can’t imagine marketing without conceptual creativity. As a marketer, you always have to be a creative thinker. Thinking about the customer, about gaps in the market, about new opportunities. When you talk about the creative rationale from the agency, it is important that you as a marketer must be able to test creativity. Our campaigns come about after penetrating but equal discussions and intensive sparring sessions. I am concerned about the combination of creativity and data. I strongly believe in data, but data alone does not take us any further. I also see a battle between the two, and it shouldn’t be. I like to see things in combination and in balance. “

I think you’re always on the ball, literally and figuratively. How do you relax?
“I’m actually always a marketer, also private. I watch TV, walk in the supermarket and I always ask questions. Which advertisers are around this program, what does this program do in terms of viewing figures, and what does this say about the Netherlands, why is this on offer? I am always on. But then again, marketing is really my thing, I also find it all interesting and fun. I relax by cycling and running. Football is still my game, no more doing it myself, but watching remains a pleasure. Sport is my outlet. “

Which brands are you secretly jealous of or have your sympathy for?
“Any brand that does something different from the rest, that has the guts to think in a different direction, that makes a recalcitrant move. I think Rituals are such a brand. Now it is an established brand, but some twenty years ago they came to nestle among the top brands such as Chanel and say, the Kruidvat segment. I thought: what are they doing, are they going to create a middle segment? Wow, is this brilliantly conceived or are they stuck in the middle? The rest is history. Really phenomenally done with strong growth and international presence. There are more such beautiful Dutch (marketing) successes with international impact. I was in LA last year walking down Abott Kinney, the hippest street. And what do you see: Suit Supply, Scotch & Soda and MediaMonks. Almost side by side. Then we’ll do something right. “

What blunder and success can we note?
“I am very proud of King Toto. When I came in here, about six years ago, with Toto we made a turnover of 50 million euros and now six times as much. Toto has gone through a tremendous development. Toto had the smell of the past, it was something of your father with those forms. By thinking differently, we have given the brand a huge swing. I am also proud of the birth of Eredivisie Live where I started with two other board members with absolutely nothing and zero subscribers. Together with Endemol, we set up our own media company with ultimately 650,000 subscribers. It was a wonderful time, the feeling that you are going to do something big, your own start-up feeling. I also made my biggest blunder here, well actually, made more of a mistake. We had come up with the idea to create an individual campaign for each premier league club, so posters from Ajax, Feyenoord et cetera. Due to a logistical error, the posters of Ajax were hanging in Rotterdam and those of Feyenoord in Amsterdam. Fortunately, we got through quickly, otherwise we would have had to build a whole new abrinet! “

Do you have an awareness of permanent study / education?
“I look around a lot, that is my most important school. Am abroad a lot and am involved in the BvA and the Effies. And I almost complete a Commissioner’s training. So I look for it broader than marketing sec. “

Do you have a golden tip for colleagues?
“Think out of the box. Go right when everyone goes left. Unfortunately, many marketers run after each other. And take a good look around you: take to the streets, go to the shops, take the tram and watch TV. Get out of your bubble and experience what consumers really do and think. “

This article was in MarketingTribune 11, 2020. Photography is by Zuiverbeeld.

Also read our other interviews with CMOs:
Thorsas Koenen | Rabobank
Johan van der Zanden Albert Heijn
Marlin van Straaten HMSHost
Brenda Smith | Kruidvat
Martijn Smelt of Philips TV and Audio TP Vision

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