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RubieCon, Asia’s Newest Social Casino Platform, Engages HOGO for Brand Marketing and Media Management

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Ho Chi Minh City, September 27, 2018 (Thursday): HOGO has been selected as the marketing agency of record for RubieCon, a Vietnam-based firm focused on launching a social casino platform that will also integrate BlockChain technologies enabling the bi-directional exchange of private and base tokens.

Targeting the booming Asian markets, RubieCon is the brainchild of veteran casino and gaming operator Shaun McCamley. With a team consisting of both casino-industry and BlockChain experts, RubieCon aims to disrupt the space by offering a robust technology solution matched with games designed to attract the Asian market base.

Shaun McCamley, CEO of RubieCon, stated: “We are excited to sign HOGO as our agency of record for this new and exciting next step in social gaming. Up until now, platforms have struggled to successfully implement new technology into the social gaming platform that proves attractive to the Asian consumer base. Our team’s expertise in gaming coupled with HOGO’s ability to reach our target consumers here in Asia will ensure the platform is a success.”

Chris Wieners, Managing Partner of HOGO stated: “RubieCon is a new and innovative idea in the social casino and gaming arena. I’m excited about the prospects it brings and our team looks forward to working closely with Shaun and his team of gaming and technology experts in the launch of this new platform.

HOGO will oversee all initial brand launch operations with a focus on investor education and development for the platform. Future work will include all media, advertising and commercial platform promotions.

About RubieCon
RubieCon is a B2C2B free-play Asia-focused social casino gaming platform targeting new generations of Asian players. RubieCon aims to create an independent foundation, a managed platform that will remain open and free to all game publishers, advertisers, marketers and players. Disruptive and smart, RubieCon rings in a new era of social gaming into an already hungry and underserved market. | Website: www.rubiecon.com

Saipan Executive Tour Launches

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HOGO recently launched its inaugural Executive Tour to Saipan. Consisting of Japanese executives from Osaka and Tokyo, the tour focused on a variety of subjects and included front and back of house tours of integrated resorts as well as local parlor operators and meetings with the government tourism board.

The tour launched with both front and back of house tours of Saipan’s largest IR project, the Imperial Palace. This included meetings with a variety of executives on site who explained in detail the project, how they plan to integrate with local businesses and ultimately how Japanese tourism will impact the resort. This also included a hard-hat tour of the construction site to see first-hand the scale of the planned project. A second location on the tour included Club C, located at the Kanoa Resort. The team was able to see how a smaller scale operator successfully operates within Saipan. A final stop included a meeting with the head of the Marianas Visitor Authority, who explained the future of Saipan’s tourism plan and integration with the upcoming Japanese flights via operator Skymark.

Chris Wieners, Managing Partner of HOGO, stated: “Our Saipan tour was well received by operators as well as visitors from Japan. The ability to get a behind-the-scenes look at those operations currently under constructions, as well as see smaller successful operations in this unique market was very interesting. We’re excited to see shortly the launch of direct lift from Narita which will certainly begin the revitalization of Japanese tourist arrivals to the island.”

The next Executive Tour is scheduled in Macau this October and aims to include integration with IR operators as well as a to-be-announced academic partnership.

HOGO Partners with Japan IR Association For Executive Education Programs

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The Japan IR Association (JIRA) and marketing firm HOGO have announced a formal partnership that will see them working together on Japanese IR education initiatives including the expansion of the previously launched “Executive Tour” program. The tours will continue with a focus on Macau but include new destinations for executives to visit including Saipan.

The partnership agreement comes as the Japan IR Bill inches closer to completion and implementation. Operators and government officials alike have long stated that a significant aspect of IR development will include public education. HOGO, having previously launched the Executive Tour program in May 2018, will now work with JIRA to further the program’s awareness and attract relevant executives and Japanese industry specialists to visit and study integrated resorts across a variety of destinations. In both Macau and Saipan, this will include meetings with relevant executives, procurement teams, and even government organizations such as tourism bureaus and regulators to further grasp a holistic view of the integrated resort industry.

Chris Wieners, Managing Partner of HOGO, stated: “We are excited to announce this formal partnership with JIRA. As an association, they are able to further promote relevant initiatives to their membership base here in Japan. We plan on working with them on a variety of IR education and event-focused initiatives to further enhance the general public’s opinion and attitude towards the integrated resort industry.”

Ayako Nakayama, CEO of JIRA, stated: “We are happy to launch into a formal partnership with HOGO on the development of the Executive Tour program and other future initiatives. The association’s goal continues to focus on education as well as creating opportunities for Japanese entities in this new industry. We plan on announcing a variety of additional Japan-wide initiatives focused on private sector and community awareness in the coming months – it is a very exciting time for us!”

The next Executive Tour is scheduled in Saipan during the week of August 20th, with a Macau tour to be held in mid-September. The tours will be offered quarterly to Japanese executives and members of the Japan IR Association.

Can Pachinko Use New Marketing Channels to Drive New Players?

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Japan’s pachinko industry is in trouble.

Faced with a declining audience, tighter regulations and the birth of a new casino industry in Japan, pachinko’s death seems all but certain. However, is there a potential light at the end of this tunnel? Has the industry really done all it can to try and stimulate growth? Is it too late for pachinko?

The answer is a resounding no. The pachinko industry has not done nearly enough or even scratched the surface of available opportunities to grow its audience and attract new, younger players. While the reasons for this are many, this short examines the use of currently untapped marketing channels with a focus on digital to promote awareness and build a new, younger, more affluent audience for the industry as a whole.

Pachinko marketing consists of a few very traditional mediums, attracting a traditional customer base. Newspaper and magazines have been the medium of choice by the industry for decades. These have often been constrained to specific publications and pages (sections) where one may find similar types of ads pushing horse and boat racing. These forms of legalized entertainment have continued to attract a repeat customer-base, but one that is aging quickly without any visibility or interest from new, younger clientele. Regulations to pachinko advertising and promotions have also hurt traditional medium’s ability to have a visible impact.

An interesting example was a parlor in the Kansai Region who attempted to run an ad promotion free coffee and breakfast items to patrons who arrived early. This ad was met with a note from the local police force (the police in Japan govern pachinko from a local prefectural and city level) asking the parlor to remove the ad, as it had shown a clear “benefit” to attract players. The local advertising ordinance had made it clear that this was not allowed, and any benefit, even a simple cup of coffee, would be considered a ‘grey area’ for advertisers. While these local ordinances differ from prefecture to prefecture and even from city to city, they have not been conducive to the industries ability to re-invent or grow itself.

Other costly advertising and promotional gimmicks have also been undertaken. A very popular form of promotion is the use of idols and celebrities to appear at parlors for signings or meet and greet events. Many pachinko machines are themed with popular anime or idol-spokesgirls. What better way to attract a drove of players than to have a member of Japan’s popular idol group AKB48 show up at the pachinko parlor to sign autographs? With a significant older-male (salaryman) demographic, these types of promotions generally fare quite well in attracting interest from customers.

These initiatives do not, however, do anything to grow the industry and attract a new market. You may notice a missing channel from the above listed initiatives – digital marketing.

With the exception of large multi-national pachinko operators, many small and medium local parlors don’t even have a website, much less any other presence in the digital world. In a country where LINE rules and digital girlfriends are a real thing, does it not make sense for the industry to look at a shift into this medium? HOGO believes the industry has a an opportunity, a crucial one, to make or break its future. While the specifics of this channel are many, this short focuses on several including website, digital media and social media marketing.

WEBSITES

As noted above, the majority of pachinko parlors, with the exception of large corporate groups, do not own or operate any web or digital presence at all. The building block of any companies digital shop front, pachinko websites do require some level of censorship in order to not stir the ire of local authorities. While there are very few written rules with regards to how these websites look, feel and operate, some basic regulations do apply. For example, similar to the above “coffee” example, parlors must be careful in how they actively promote financial of physical benefits to players. Lucky draws, giveaways and

promotion of “jackpots” are generally frowned upon. Soft benefits, such as events, parlor operational benefits (amenities) and the like, including machine types (with a focus on popular characters and themes) are very much allowed and offer a way for operators to differentiate themselves online. Simple sites that promote locations, LINE@ accounts, operational hours and give users a feel for the experience should be the bare minimum digital presence every pachinko operator utilizes.

DIGITAL MEDIA

Digital media is key to the industry placing itself in front of a new audience. While also highly regulated and with the understanding some advertisers and third party platforms have banned pachinko altogether, there are still many online resources and ad networks in the country willing to accept and promote soft-sell pachinko ads to their networks. This includes networks such as Doubleclick that not only allow for some pachinko advertising, but offer a variety of mediums (including video) as well as re-targeting options to ensure that the target audience sees different ads based on time of day, their own digital footprint and personal habits, as well as how many times they have seen a particular ad. For example, if a customer sees a parlors ad and clicks through the website, they may see a second ad later promoting a specific game or with more detailed information about the parlor, as the customer has then been tagged as a “high potential” client. While it is unfortunate that giveaways and promotions are somewhat restricted, event promotions (such as the previously mentioned idol signings) can be advertised. Digital media and advertising channels give a new opportunity to pachinko operators who, while still operating some more traditional promotional tools, want to place these in front of a new audience.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook and Instagram are huge in Japan, but for pachinko, LINE@ is where its at. LINE@ is the corporate function, similar to a Facebook business page, allowing companies in Japan to collect fans and followers to push content and communicate. Like Weixin (WeChat) in China, LINE is very much used a communication tool and has been quickly adapting to integrate eCommerce and other business functions into its mix. LINE@, in its most simple function, allows pachinko operators to create an opt-in database for future marketing communication as well as a direct line of discussion with customers. LINE@ followers may get access to special promotions or insights, or VIP tickets to one of those idol signings. Whatever the promotion, LINE@ allows parlors to directly create opportunities to market to highly interested customers. Creating these followers is as simple as adding a QR code to the website, whose traffic has been driven by the use of digital media (advertising).

The pachinko industry does have an opportunity to reinvent itself. The industry can fight back against the rapidly declining figures. To give some context, in 2011, gross pachinko revenue reached ¥246 billion, with visible yearly declines down to ¥223 billion in 2015. Total parlors in operation has fallen significantly from 12,323 in 2011 to 10,986 in 2015. Overall “active” customers have decreased from 1.6 million in 2010 to around 1 million in 2015.

And the future development of the integrated resort industry? The pachinko industry has rightfully dismissed this concern, citing that existing customer bases, especially those in rural areas far from existing IR sites, will have little to no impact with the opening of gaming operations. Pachinko patrons, at least those of today, often utilize the game as a break – a time to escape and “relax”. The wagering is small, with many small-stakes machines only offering single-ball bets of ¥1. This means for many in pachinko’s mass market, a ¥10,000 bill (~USD100) could last an hour or more. These patrons have little to no interest in other games outside of pachinko and pachi-slot and are not in positions to be paying the ¥6,000 entry levy that will be imposed by casinos on Japanese citizens. Distance, lack of desire and expense mean that these customers, while rapidly disappearing, will not be lured away from the pachinko halls by the promise of glamorous integrated resorts.

With that said, the industry is still suffering a major decline and is at long-term risk of disappearing altogether if it does not reinvent itself and find a new audience to call its own. And in this regard, the future, while shaky, can still be altered.

HOGO will soon publish the results of an existing trial with Kansai-based pachinko group Rakupachi. This test includes a use of multiple digital channels and advertising methods to prove the market opportunity within the industry. These results are expected to be published in August 2018. For more information or queries, contact us via japan@hogodigital.com.

HOGO Launches Partnership with the Library Project

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HOGO has announced the launch of a formal partnership with The Library Project, a children’s charity based in Asia with offices throughout the world including Vietnam, Hong Kong, China and The United States. The partnership will see HOGO providing pro-bono marketing services for the charity while assisting them with the further development of their brand in Asia.

Born out of an idea in 2006 and formally launched in 2007, The Library Project has been focused on the development of children’s literacy in Asia. Founded by Tom Stader, the charity began in Dalian, China while focusing on making a difference in the lives of children in shelters and orphanages through access to age-appropriate, relevant reading materials. The group has since donated over 1 million books to libraries at schools in China and Vietnam, with a focus on those in underprivileged locations in each country. The Library Project has seen great success in helping over a million students and teachers obtain access to books and reading materials they may otherwise not have access to. They aim to continue expansion throughout Asia, focusing on underprivileged communities with similar needs.

Mr. Tom Stader, Founder of The Library Project, stated: “We are excited to be partnered with HOGO on marketing and branding initiatives. We have always welcomed new partners with energy and enthusiasm to help us build our brand and further our goal of providing literary materials to those in need. We look forward to working with a professional marketing firm like HOGO as we seek to expand our services to new markets here in Asia.”

Chris Wieners, Managing Partner of HOGO, stated: “We are honored to be a partner of the team at The Library Project. We believe in their mission and their vision and want to assist them in further development of their capabilities and promotion of their brand here in Asia. Our team is excited to work alongside them as they work to provide assistance to children and teachers in need. We are happy to be able to give back to the community and look forward to the future expansion of their organization and its services.

Team HOGO Highlight – Edite Ribeiro

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Edite Ribeiro is HOGO’s recently promoted Marketing Director, responsible for the development of creative, engaging and overall amazing marketing and advertising ideas for our clients. Having joined HOGO in October 2015, Edite’s background included projects in and around the marketing and advertising world.

Originally from Macau but educated in Portugal (including studies in Porto and Lisbon), Edite has always had a passion for advertising. In Portugal she interned with local television firm ‘Porto Canal’ as well as worked for a creative house ‘Pony Tale’. Upon returning to Macau, Edite worked with a designer and contracting firm that handled development of some of Macau’s pools, fountains and other fixtures at integrated resorts across the region. She then moved on to a design-focused role with a local newspaper, which after she considered a return to Portugal.

As luck would have it, Edite connected over a drink with a HOGO team member and learned that the agency was seeking talent.  A few interviews later she was in and the rest is history! Edite has recently been promoted to the Marketing Director at the agency, working with teams in Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan on campaigns and ideas that wow our customers while successfully growing their brands in Asia.

In her spare time, Edite loves photography, design and illustration and dabbles a bit in stand up comedy. Just ask her!

Say hello to Edite Ribeiro, one of HOGO’s marketing gurus!

HOGO To Launch Japan-Macau Executive Connection

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Osaka, April 11, 2018 (Wednesday): HOGO has announced the launch of a program entitled the ‘Japan-Macau Executive Connection’. The program aims to educate senior corporate executives from Japan with regards to the integrated resort industry and was developed in partnership with Osaka-Ishin no Kai founding member, former-member of prefecture assembly and presently CEO of Think a Connect, Mr. Yoshiaki Aono.

The Japan-Macau Executive Connection was developed after review of recent discussions between the Japanese government and integrated resort operators. Many of these discussions have focused on the further education of the Japanese public and efforts designed to positively impact the public’s opinion of the industry. The business community is of specific interest, noting that Japanese business leaders could be influential and should be educated on the industry’s potential impacts, both positive and negative, within Japan.

The program will partner with Macau-based gaming operators for the purpose of offering fam-trip style tours of the properties, including both front and back of house. In addition, executives from Japan will be able to meet with key operator contacts to learn more about the business strategy of each organization including senior procurement executives. The goal of the platform is to offer Japanese executives a chance to understand the breadth and scale of an integrated resort and also clearly see the positive potential impacts the industry will have in the local market. A clear understanding of a firm’s ability to connect and do business with this new industry in Japan will help develop more positive rapport amongst senior leadership in some of Japan’s largest companies.

Mr. Yoshiaki Aono stated: “This program will allow Japanese corporations to understand the integrated resort industry in depth and showcase opportunities to them both now and in the future. Additionally, it will be integral to collect and understand information that correlates the connection between the IR industry and economic growth for the local Japanese business communities. I look forward to this program becoming a bridge between local Japanese firms and global integrated resort operators, while exciting the busi

ness community about the promising futures the industry will bring to Japan.”Chris Wieners, Managing Partner of HOGO, stated: “As we continue to listen to the Japanese government and gaming operators focus on the need educate the public, we feel the need to develop programs that foster such education. We are happy to enter into an official partnership with Mr. Aono – his ability to connect with Japanese corporations and his influence are the driving force behind the success of this program, as is the support of the individual IR operators who have been incredibly supportive and accommodating.

HOGO launched a pilot of the program in March, bringing to Macau top executives from the largest Japanese telecommunication company, Suncrest Japan and other influencers from Osaka.

Team HOGO Highlight – Tran Vo Phi

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Tran Vo Phi (Phi) is a graphic designer from Ho Chi Minh City who has been working with HOGO Vietnam for nearly three years. In his capacity with HOGO, Phi has been focusing on a wide variety of design and creative projects for our clients.

Having graduated from the University of Fine Art of Ho Chi Minh City in 2015, Phi immediately went on to join a creative team locally prior to joining HOGO.His educational background includes accolades from one of Vietnam’s top universities, where students are trained in a wide range of design skills and applied arts. The university itself is a training centre hosting students from both North and South Vietnam, as well as overseas.

Phi has been instrumental in the development of several projects while with HOGO, including both those locally in Vietnam as well as throughout Asia. His creativity has been published across projects both offline and online, including a variety of both web and out of home advertisements.

In his spare time, Phi enjoys video games, a wide range of movie titles and can often be seen smoking his pipe while deep in artistic thought.

Say hello to Phi – one of the many people who help HOGO who keep our clients happy!

China Search – A Marketing Tool For Online Gaming

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HOGO has published a white paper detailing out how online gaming / casino operators can successfully use Baidu to build their brands in China. An excerpt is listed below; the full white paper can be viewed by clicking here.


The gaming (casino) industry, including both land-based and online operations, has long struggled with utilizing digital marketing channels within China to grow market awareness and customer click through. Many of the traditional channels available internationally don’t exist or offer only extremely censored opportunities, which often completely shut out the ability to promote a gaming product online.

The notably more important China-based channels that are integral for any brand entering the marketplace are often discouraged or banned from working with any content seen as a societal ill, a practice which has more recently expanded beyond traditional censorship of alcohol, tobacco, casino gaming and sexual imagery to also include products that showcase extreme luxury or promote themselves as “the best” in the marketplace.

As a result, many brands have struggled to develop significant presence across China channels such as search and social media, thereby losing out on a significant market opportunity for their product or service.

Gaming is no different. For the purpose of this document, gaming is in reference to online casino operations across the wider spectrum to include live dealer gaming, slots, online sports betting, lottery, poker and the like.

While traditionally these industries have struggled to utilize Chinese channels for marketing purposes, there are opportunities that, when strategically placed and managed correctly, can yield significant results through formally approved (read: legal and legitimate) marketing practices. This document focuses on utilizing search marketing (Baidu) as a platform for the promotion of online gaming products.

Team HOGO Highlight – Andrew Chiang

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Chi Wai Chiang (Andrew) is a web developer and software analyst who holds the title of Software Analyst at HOGO. Based in the agencies Macau office, Andrew is responsible for focusing on website development and the building of web applications.

Having started with the agency in 2015, Andrew has quickly become an integral member of the HOGO team working within the group’s technology department on client projects spanning from Macau to Singapore, Japan and even the USA.

Andrew has a strong passion for combining programming with art – working to develop unique and exciting new technologies to showcase across websites and mobile applications. He’s always focused on creating “the next big thing”; a true asset for the agency and its clients!

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Computer Science and Information Engineering studies from National Chio Tung University. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, badminton, trekking, and yoga.

We’re excited to showcase Andrew, our star Software Analyst, to the world!