Alex Pagett, director of corporate affairs at Hilton Group, Ladbrokes’ parent company, said it required a more heavyweight presence to co-ordinate its comms in the face of the Gambling Bill – undergoing its second reading in Parliament – and rapid industry growth, in part spurred on by the internet revolution.
Pagett added that while O’Brien would be involved in developing government comms strategy, Ladbrokes would retain LLM Communications for lobbying.
Joining as head of PR on 1 May, O’Brien has worked on the Ladbrokes account at Red since the agency won the business in 1999. He was Red’s first recruit when it launched ten years ago and has risen to the position of board director.
O’Brien said the gambling industry was subject to intense media interest and his role would be to improve the quality of coverage rather than increasing Ladbrokes’ profile.
‘The industry has undergone massive growth in recent years and has become a mainstream national pastime,’ said O’Brien. He added that the internet had opened gambling up to wider audiences and Ladbrokes’ high-street outlets were being transformed to include coffee shops and plasma screens in an effort to create a more widely appealing betting experience.
O’Brien said communicating Ladbrokes’ CSR activity would be a priority, including work with Citizen Card to promote responsible gambling, and the Ladbrokes Charitable Trust.
The company is also preparing to launch a new brand identity, but Pagett would not disclose details.