Adams Analysis Q2 2020: Influencers and A New Spectator Sport By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports June 26, 2020 at 10:03 am Originally sent out on June 16, 2020 to CDC Premium Subscribers, we have made this quarter’s Adams Analysis free to all readers. A new category of influencers has emerged recently: YouTube slot players. The host of a YouTube video goes to a casino and plays slot machines while making a videocast of the action. Followers and subscribers sit at home and watch the action. If they like what they see they may go out and play the games themselves. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to have full access to the videocasts and a two-way dialogue with Brian. One of this new variety of influencers, spinning the slot reels, is Brian Christopher, who has been playing slot machines and recording that for his YouTube videocasts for four years. The followers enjoy the opportunity to learn about new slot machines, see different casinos, and get the vicarious thrill of watching spinning reels and feeling the rush of anticipation. Brian has 250,000 followers and is starting to get the attention of casinos and slot companies. While he plays, Brain explains games, themes, symbols, pay-lines, and bonuses. He keeps up a rapid-fire, non-stop, play-by-play narrative of hope, despair, and joy. “Come on, sevens, right now! Ooh, almost, so close. I need that bonus now. Uggh, a near miss, maybe next spin. Oh my god! Oh god, look at that, amazing, I can’t believe it!” When he walks toward the next game, he begins a new storyline, which might start “Now, I am going to play [name of game], I played it yesterday and won. It is an IGT game and I love it.” His narrative sounds like the internal dialogue of a regular slot player, at least as I imagine that. While Brian is playing and talking, his followers post messages to him. He reads some of the messages and responds live. People comment on the games he is playing, suggest others, wish him luck, and invite him to visit their favorite casino. One woman even invited him to help her have a baby, “Oh, you are sooo handsome.” YouTube slot players like Brian also talk about the casino, food, employees, social distancing, and their family. Brian is careful not to show other players unless they wish to be on camera. He also limits actual footage of the casino floor in accordance with casino policy. Brian’s YouTube channel is under his own name, but other influencers have names like Slot Queen, NG Slot, Slot Cats, King Jason Slots, Windy City Frenzy, and Neily 777. At the moment, Brian seems to be the top star in the field, a position he probably solidified in April. On April 27th the Coeur d’Alene casino in Idaho was the first casino in the country to reopen. Brian was on hand and broadcasting, which gained him national attention. His presence was reflective of his sense of marketing – there are no accidentals in his activities. Brian has created a successful business by marketing images of himself playing in casinos. He seems to have tapped into a phenomenon that few people even knew existed: lots of people like to watch other people play slot machines. And in the process, he has gained the power of influencing which slot machines people play. There have always been people who influenced other people. The clothes that Jackie Kennedy wore shaped the fashion of her time, just as the wardrobe, attitude, and lifestyle of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cher, and hundreds of other famous entertainers have done. The men who exert the most influence over fashion are athletes, although rappers certain have an impact. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and LeBron James became very rich not only because of their athletic abilities but due to their value to advertisers. “Be Like Mike!” – and millions of young men tried to do just that. It is conceivable that without Michael Jordan, Nike might have slid into obscurity along with most other athletic shoe companies of the 1980 and 1990s. Instead, it is a $120 billion clothing giant. Celebrity endorsements have been around for a very long time. A hundred years ago, famous people started appearing in magazines touting cigarettes, soap, soup, coffee, cars, breakfast cereal, crackers, cameras, tea, toothpaste, watches, gasoline, and thousands of other products. In the early years, a celebrity would make simplistic statements like, “I smoke Camels, they are mild, refreshing and they agree with my throat.” Fred Astaire, Phil Silvers, Dennis O’Keefe, Dick Haynes, Dick Powell, Henry Fonda, Margaret Piazza, Ava Gabor, and Maureen O’Hara all embraced Camels with words like that. Beginning in the 1930s, radio and television joined in the fun. Opera and popular singers sang company ditties with the same enthusiasm that they brought to other songs. Dinah Shore encouraged us to “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and Nat King Cole sang of the joys of using Wildroot Cream Oil Hair Tonic. It seemed that almost no product was off-limits for a star to use and no celebrity was above accepting advertisers’ dollars. By the 1980s, marketing had become more sophisticated. Celebrities were still shown with the product, but their endorsements were more subtle. Television was the perfect medium for celebrity endorsements, showing a celebrity actually using a product. Those commercials – or to more exact, the money paid to show those commercials – made television possible. Without those products, television would never have come to dominate the culture the way that it did before the internet arrived. Today the internet is slowly but certainty supplanting television as the place we all go for information and for entertainment. It is ubiquitous, available everywhere we go. With its constant presence comes instant feedback. The 24-hour news cycle of television news is, on the internet, closer to a 24-second news cycle – as soon as something happens it is being shared online. It might not hold center stage any longer, but television changed our national culture. It created a nation of spectators. Television made it possible to sit at home and watch a presidential inaugural parade, historic votes in congress, famous funerals, demonstrations, and the fireworks around the world on New Year’s Eve. But perhaps most importantly, television allowed a fan to attend almost any sporting event in the country. Television creates a culture of watching, not doing. The only thing that television encouraged members of the audience to do was to use the products it advertised. People watching sporting contests on televisions are not encouraged to jump up and go play sports. Rather, they are enticed into sitting at home and watch the action while eating and drinking. The internet extended the events that can be attended vicariously, adding big things (riots, arrests) and, now, small ones (birthday parties, family game nights, drinking together). It also added new places where a celebrity could sell products – anywhere a screen was in use, whether on a home computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. The internet also gave rise to a new kind of celebrity – a self-appointed taster of life and an influencer of others. Like Brian Christopher, influencers sell subscriptions to watch them live an exciting life, as well as getting income from product placement and endorsements. Except for being self-appointed, an influencer is not much different from a 1930s movie star smoking cigarettes and telling his/her fans that a Camel is a great smoke. Both are motivated by money, the desire to create a larger fanbase, and the ability to charge advertisers for their recommendations. That brings me back to Brian Christopher and slot influencing. In marketing himself, he appears to have targeted three different audiences. His fans are of course the primary target – he needs their monthly subscriptions to pay his staff, travel expenses, and his own salary. Without those loyal subscribers, it would be difficult to influence anyone. Brian plays slot machines in real-time and talks about the games – he names them as he plays, and he identifies the game manufacturer. When he wins, regardless of how small the win, he talks up the game and celebrates. His comments excite his followers and subscribers and influence them to seek out those same games when they are in a casino. That makes slot manufacturers another target. Brian does not always name the manufacturer; that’s his choice. He sets limits on his play on any game, either a specific amount of money to be wagered or lost, or a time limit. When he reaches that limit, Brian moves to another slot machine. His choice of games is entirely his own. Without violating any trust between himself and his subscribers Brian could choose one manufacturer’s games more often than another; identifying the manufacturer when it suits his purpose. As his popularity grows, why wouldn’t manufacturers offer to sponsor him? It would be a great way to introduce new games to an enthusiastic and dedicated base of potential players. Casinos are the third target of Brian’s marketing. When he went that Idaho casino, it was in coordination with the casino’s management because the casino thought that Brian’s presence would help them publicize the opening. In an interview with the local press, he said he was also in discussions with other casinos to be at their openings. In one videocast, he was wearing a mask and discussing some of the social distancing and other safety measures the casino had introduced. It was a good way for the casino to show what it is using to protect customers. At the same time, Brian showed it was possible to be out playing slot machines and having a good time. And Brian wins again with yet another potential source of revenue. Where all of this will lead is an interesting question. It might lead to relatively little – mostly evaporating into cyberspace when people return to their normal lives, once the COVID-19 crisis is over. On the other hand, the crisis may have grown the slot watching fan base and made possible a more permanent, viable institution. If Brian and the others like him do continue to gain popularity, the casinos and slot companies are certain to take more notice. Direct connections between a would-be gambler and the game maker, and between a would-be gambler and the casino, would solve an old problem. It has always been a challenge to use advertising to show the excitement of casino gambling to prospective customers. Paid actors aren’t quite the way to do it; and it is either illegal or bad policy, or both, to film random gamblers in action. Willing, enthusiastic gamblers with a gift for gab and a desire to be celebrities can create direct lines from manufacturers and operators to would-be gamblers. In a perfect world, Brian gets rich and famous, the casino shows off its fun atmosphere, and the slot company demonstrates the excitement of its games. And at home, quietly watching the action and seeing thrill of the spin, vicariously, are potential slot players.