It’s been a long time coming. But recently-appointed Illinois Lottery superintendent Michael Jones has made it happen. Finally, the Lottery’s marketing game plan is going in a different direction. A markedly different direction.
For years, Lottery TV advertising was filled with crass humor and constant references to the big payouts that were possible if only — if only — players kept buying those tickets.
Of course, the concept of playing the Lottery has not changed one wit — the possibility of big payouts is still there.
What is changing — we hope for good — is a requirement to make Lottery marketing just about the money. After all, the Lottery was conceived of as a way to help fund some really good things for the state of Illinois, education chief among them.
Lottery marketing, agency change Jones’ top priorities
When he became Lottery superintendent last fall, Jones made it a top priority to address Lottery marketing. It was not something that some within Northstar Lottery Group, the Lottery private management organization, saw coming or expected to happen so quickly.
Northstar tapped Energy BBDO as its partner to handle advertising when Northstar won the private management contract from the state in 2010 in a review process many maintain was rigged from the start. The fact that Jodie Winnett (who presided over that review) is gone as Lottery superintendent — acting or otherwise — may say a lot about the credibility of those claims.
But that part of Lottery history is past. What Jones did was dismiss Energy BBDO, which, for the most part, had carried on with the same silly advertising that was the hallmark of several previous ad agencies that worked on the business.
Jones launched a comprehensive agency review for the Lottery account. And when all the pitches were done, Downtown Partners/Chicago and its digital partner Critical Mass emerged the new agencies of record for the Illinois Lottery.
Anyone who knows Jim Schmidt and Joe Stuart, the creative team at the heart of Downtown Partners, knows “silly” is not a primary characteristic of the work they do. So from the moment DP won the business in January, the expectation was that silly would be gone from Lottery advertising.
And indeed it is.
New “Believe” spot scores on every level
“Believe” is the title of the first commercial from Downtown Partners for the Illinois Lottery. The 30-second spot broke Monday. And in just about every way possible, it is like nothing we have seen in a Lottery TV commercial for as long as we can remember.
We know this because literally the first image in the commercial is that of a woman in bed bathed in intensely golden sunlight. No goony people running around in space suits. No avalanches of money falling out of the sky. Just a woman seemingly lost in her dreams.
The ad copy makes clear the spot’s theme right at the top — no guessing or head scratching necessary, thank you very much. “Do you believe in the power of possibility?” asks the male voiceover talent. “That on any given day anything can happen?” adds the announcer.
Yes, it’s a dreamy concept based on the power of possibility that guides all of us really — wittingly or unwittingly. The rest of the spot riffs simply and straightforwardly on that theme as it talks about everyday things almost all of us can relate to — the weather, the urge to regain our youth, our pets.
And perhaps most importantly, “Believe” ends with the joyous possibility of that first true love that can be discovered — seemingly by chance in a very — in a world of seven billion people.
These are all real and relatable things. And this Lottery commercial puts them out there for our consideration with a deliciously light tough. Never once is the possibility of winning hard cash broached in the copy or the visuals, except at the very end in the de rigueur Illinois Lottery brand logo — the pot of gold — with the tagline “Anything’s Possible” positioned beneath.
Sophisticated Lottery advertising a welcome change
Yes, this is Lottery advertising at its most subtle and sophisticated. Hardcore, money-grubbing Lottery players will know what is being promoted here. But viewers with a less brazen frame of mind might, just might, begin to see the Lottery in a different light — maybe not as golden as the light in the first images in “Believe.” But a better light.
Is “Believe” perfect? No.
Our biggest disappointment is in “Believe’s” musical underscoring from Nicholas Tremulis Music.
We know the original music had to be composed and recorded on a tight deadline. But for “Believe” to truly soar it needs much stronger, more emphatic music. What is heard in “Believe” feels much too generic and fails to enhance the emotional impact of the imagery.
But perhaps with more lead time in commercials to come, more work can be done to improve the music.
Still we like the idea of playing on the theme of limitless possibilities. And taking to heart the Lottery’s new theme, we believe this huge step forward that Jones and his marketing team have just taken means it’s more than possible things will only get better.
Downtown Partners credits: CD/copywriter, Jim Schmidt; CD/art director, Joe Stuart; executive producer, Will Meyers.
Production company shooting in Chicago: @Radical, L.A., director, Andrew Becker, executive producer, Jim Bouvet.
Local credits. Editorial, Beast, Angelo Valencia, editor; online artist, Mark Anderson; producer, Lauren
Music company: Nicholas Tremulis.
Contact Lewis Lazare at: LewisL3@aol.com