I’m not a fan of the current generation of betting agencies, not by a long shot. The pervasive advertising, the convoluted terms & conditions, the overwhelming encouragement to bet by whatever means, whenever and wherever possible… really, there’s not much to like.
But none of them draw my ire the way Tom Waterhouse does. The clean-cut, baby-faced ever-grinning fourth-generation bookmaker is in another league to his competitors; whenever his face appears (as it seems to do countless times a day) the red mist descends.
disclaimer: recently in the comments section of this blog, I was accused of being hateful and vengeful. I dispute that… but when it comes to Waterhouse, guilty as charged.
Why? Why does Waterhouse get under my skin in a way none of the other betting agencies does?
Is it the saturation tactics he uses, with his constant ads on free-to-air TV, pay TV and radio? His expert spots on a range of news services & sports coverage? His tram, trundling around Melbourne’s CBD?
Is it the (mostly) free ride he gets from the print media? Lengthy, gushing articles like “Behind the scenes with Tom Waterhouse” (Daily Telegraph, June 2011), “A serious man” (SMH, May 2012) and “Tom Waterhouse: The thoroughbred” (Daily Telegraph, October 2012)? Articles overflowing with praise for the dynamic young man, not to mention compulsory mentions of his romance with Hoda (now his wife). Why, the Daily Telegraph’s “Sydney Confidential” even covered their wedding back in July last year. The weight of glowing testimonial certainly outweighs any negative coverage he gets.
Is it his tactic of giving money to celebrities (mainly sporting celebs) to bet with him on races, with any winnings going to charity? Stephanie Rice, Quade Cooper, Robbie Farah, Lara Bingle… the list goes on. He gets a mountain of publicity out of this tactic for minimal outlay… surely these charities would be better served if he just gave them the money?
Well, yes… and no. There’s a very simple reason why Tom Waterhouse shits me more than anyone else. And it’s this:
A few days ago, I received a parcel in the mail. It was my signed print of @FirstDogOnMoon‘s “Evil Tom” cartoon. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a brilliant piece of cartoon satire that shreds Waterhouse’s “everywhere, all the time” tactics.
My kids had just been dropped off at my place for their weekend with Dad, and as I opened the mailing tube and unrolled the print, my 11-yr-old daughter looked over my shoulder.
“What’s that?” she said. “Oh… Tom Waterhouse.”
A moment’s silence.
“You know Tom Waterhouse?” I asked.
“Yes, he’s the gambling guy,” she replied.
Another moment’s silence.
“HOW do you know Tom Waterhouse?” I asked.
“Eh, his ads are all over the TV. He’s annoying,” she answered.
THAT’s why I hate Tom Waterhouse. The saturation tactics, the media-friendly approach, but mostly his decision to brand his company with his face and his name, means that even my 11-yr-old daughter knows him BY NAME. Knows who is he, what he represents. Knows that he’s that “gambling guy”.
I should point out that I don’t rant about the gambling industry to my kids, although I have & do talk to them about it (as I feel all parents should). And I know that her mother, my ex, has no interest in gambling, so it’s not like she’s being overly exposed to the Waterhouse blitz there.
No. This is what happens when a company, a “dynamic young entrepreneur” like Waterhouse, smears itself across our TV screens, newspapers, public transport and anything else it can find. They don’t just reach their alleged “target” audience; they reach everyone. Even our kids.
For what it’s worth, my daughter thought First Dog’s print was hilarious. And no, she doesn’t like Tom Waterhouse either.