Expect Fewer Obnoxious DraftKings & FanDuel Ads This Football Season

Last fall, daily fantasy sports seemed to come out of nowhere, with the industry’s two biggest players — DraftKings and FanDuel — also suddenly emerging as two of the biggest spenders on TV advertising. Constant commercials, sponsored segments on sports shows; even the final season of FXX’s The League had a bizarre, shoehorned-in season-long DraftKings subplot. All these ads brought DFS gamers to the two sites, but they also attracted the attention of state regulators, resulting in Nevada and New York being added to the list of states where DFS is not (for the moment) allowed. Now the two sites say they plan to rein in their ad spending and make ads that don’t play up the aspects that make DFS look a lot like gambling to some people.

FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles has already admitted at the close of the last NFL season that his company might have gone a bit too far in blanketing the airwaves with ads.

Now he tells the Wall Street Journal that FanDuel won’t be as eager to hammer TV viewers over the head with the message that they can — in a world of infinite possibilities — maybe win a lot of money playing DFS.

In advance of the 2015 NFL season, both FanDuel and DraftKings made huge deals with TV networks that left them flush with cash for advertising. And the half a billion dollars they spent on ads last year did boost their respective user bases. However, the Journal notes that those new DFS users came at a loss compared to the ad spend. The average new player cost the two sites around $150 each in advertising.

As a result, FanDuel says it will spend about half of what it did last year on ads, while DraftKings claims its ad budget will only be around one-quarter of what it was in 2015.

FanDuel’s new ads will also play up the “sports” aspect of DFS — hoping to appeal to sports fans, as opposed to the engineers, quantitative analysts, day traders, and pro poker players who were won over by the opportunity to win big money with their big brains.

Of course, the DFS games remain the same: Users pay an entry fee, pick their team based on a capped budget, then hope to do better than others and win some portion of that fee pot. So tweaking the ads to downplay the aspects of DFS that raised “gambling” red flags in some states likely won’t do much to quiet gambling-related concerns.

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