Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Every Job Its Lurking Bears

eWallets: The Desperate Spiral of Promo Fatigue

I left public policy for a pay raise and a lessened worry that I could be fired at any moment for not knowing the first thing about Australian water use policy in the private sector. That private sector being an e-wallet that catered to online gambling.

So, yeah, a totally safe and secure industry in the wake of a global financial crash.

Now, at the time, it seemed like the company’s rough patch was over. The global economy had already cratered, the company had already been banned from operating in the US… okay you can say that’s not a great sign, but in fairness Kinder Surprise is banned from operating in the US, so that’s not necessarily a damning statement. Right?

So the days of going to work and wondering which of your coworkers would still be there were, theoretically, over. Right? Should be a cherry gig now, just writing promotional content. Right?

And at first things were going great. Being interviewed by someone in a Green Lantern t-shirt said I’d fit in well here. I finished a piece of content I’d been assigned, and my supervisor said “Already!?” and I panicked a little because I’d been disciplined at my last job for not spending enough time editing something (that was accurate, I hadn’t), but instead she was beyond glad I could deliver that kind of turnaround, unlike my predecessor. So things were going well.

The problem is that when the world is still recovering from that time bankers fucked around and the whole world found out, and the entire US is no longer a market, you have to do what you can to encourage your customer base to gamble online and use your service to do so. Which in our case meant promos! Many, many, promos. Ceaseless, constant promos. Spend X amount, get entries for this month’s big prize. My favourite to write content for involved winning a VIP trip to Monte Carlo, the description of which is 40% of my desire to ever see Monaco (the other 60% being Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, though I might not get the same experience without Cary Grant abs), because it was a challenge finding ways to say “Roll up to Monte Carlo like a motherfucking boss” without using any of that phrasing.

That particular promo didn’t take off until we said “Or take the cash equivalent.” Which the eventual winner did. Basic-ass son of a bitch.

The issue is that, like Warner Bros. and Harry Potter movies, once a steady stream of these becomes your business model, you can’t just stop. You need to keep riding that tiger. So the term “promo fatigue” had no meaning, we had to keep this party train going and going. I recall multiple meetings where our managers would say “I know we’re asking for a lot of content right now. Just… get through it.” Never “It’s just for this month.” Always “Just do it.” And we did it. And then… well…

Okay so what happened is that my company bought a Montreal company to use their name to rebrand, and then somehow the Montreal company ended up in charge? Their CEO became our CEO, and so when jobs became redundant, guess which branch started doing layoffs. After months of having to deliver exponential amounts of promo content, months of being told “Just push through it” with no promise of relief or reward, they laid off half the marketing department. Guess which half I was in.

I dunno, maybe I shouldn’t have taken 75 minute lunch breaks so often. I just liked going to East Side Mario’s and reading comics over lunch instead of eating reheated home-cooked stew in the common areas, and I didn’t always make it back in 60 minutes. Nobody formally said this was an issue, not in any sort of official performance review, but… anyway bear comparisons, yes, that’s the bit.

Bears are very territorial. There’s never going to be that many bears in my new neighbourhood. Certainly not an ever-increasing number of bears, while my supervisors say “Hey, we know there’s a lot of bears hanging around the staff entrance lately, just… try to run past them as best you can.” I suspect there will be a fairly consistent quantity of bears and they’ll always be the same level of easy or difficult to avoid. As in, “Unless they’re right in front of my building or the staff entrance, they’re easy to duck.” And my bosses would probably be a lot more sympathetic to “There sure are a lot of bears in the staff housing” than my old bosses were to “You sure are launching a lot of promos.”

Enabling Gambling Speed Round

Crime: Sometimes a customer’s account would be locked because they were being investigated for fraud. I couldn’t say they were being investigated for fraud, that was considered “tipping off” and was a fireable offense and I’m pretty sure also a crime. So they’d yell their heads off on our socials or on external forums, things I had to respond to, because if Fijity from the Node taught me anything, it’s that when your grift is being called out, throw a tantrum. Discovering they’re in the same area as humans is as mad as a bear gets. They don’t get madder because humans say “Hey, bear, should you be here?”

Encouraging Gambling: Trying to convince people to devote even more time and money to online poker isn’t exactly the most fulfilling career activity. Maybe I have to avoid a bear, but I’ll never think that my paycheck depends on making the bear’s life worse.

Tone Shifts: When I started, the company blog used soft-sell techniques, showing the merits of our service though story-based examples. At some point, management shifted to less narrative-based hard-sell posts. No personality, no flair, just sales pitches. I could do that, but it was less fun. No bear is going to say “You’re too engaging on the phone, so I have to maul you.”

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Author: danny_g

Danny G, your humble host and blogger, has been working in community theatre since 1996, travelling the globe on and off since 1980, and caring more about nerd stuff than he should since before he can remember. And now he shares all of that with you.

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