Andy Richter directs Lottery big payoff spots here

STORY director Andy Richter

Can it only have been a year since Downtown Partners/Chicago began working on the Illinois Lottery account?

My, how time flies.

And how dramatically so much has changed — for the better we hasten to add — since the agency took over the account from Energy BBDO/Chicago.

For one thing, smart campaign has followed smart campaign .  None smarter than the one now in place that shows scenarios where people discover miraculous things can happen — like a husband who later in life learns how to throw his socks in the laundry hamper rather than on the floor.  We won’t soon forget that heavenly image of his wife as she watches this little miracle unfold before her.

In another in this series we see a man whose wife thankfully opts not to prolong her search for just the right pair of denim jeans even as he is filled with unbearable yearning to get home quickly for the start of a football game. A miracle indeed. 

And further proof — if any were needed by this point — that  anything’s possible in the marketing game plan Downtown Partners has rolled out for the Illinois Lottery.

But as delightful as the work has been that Downtown Partners has produced over the past year, one thing that has been absent from the mix is any whiff of star power in the lineup of actors seen in the work.

Not that stars have really been missed, mind you. We’ll take good actors anytime over a star who may have a name and a high profile, but crucially lacks the real talent that works in front of a camera or on the stage or wherever he or she may be performing.

Andy Richter directs, stars in “trigger spots”

Well — missed or not — a name performer is about to make his debut in the cavalcade of Illinois Lottery advertising.  Yes, one Andy Richter, famously known as Conan O’Brien’s funny and unpredictable television sidekick, will show up at the Essanay Studios in Chicago this weekend to film a series of new spots for the Illinois Lottery.

These new spots will be different from what has come before in Illinois Lottery advertising.  They will be what are known as “trigger spots,” intended to run only when jackpots for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions reach a size that seems to trigger an urge among more and more people to buy a lottery ticket.  These spots presumably will help scratch that urge to play among more people.

Richter, a native of the Chicago area, is said to have jumped at the opportunity to work with Downtown Partners and the Illinois Lottery after he saw the storyboards for the planned trigger spot campaign at STORY, a production company with which he is affiliated.

Richter not only is starring in the new commercials; he is directing them as well. And he is working with Chicago-based production company, which always makes the local film production community happy.  After all, they have seen way too many local ad agencies constantly march off to the west coast to shoot spots.

By the time filming is completed, there will be several new trigger spots for the Illinois Lottery to work with. They will run only when lottery jackpots reach really big numbers such as $200 million or $300 million or more, which they have done several times recently.

Spots to air in late February

Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones was amenable to the idea of using a name performer in a Lottery campaign because he believes it is another way to focus more people on buying Lottery tickets.

In the past, it’s typically been easier to get people focused on playing when the payouts are in the hundreds of millions of dollars because often on these occasions the media, too, are focused on whipping the public into a frenzy about playing and possibly winning a fortune.

But Jones believes that an entity such as the Illinois Lottery, which is intent on maximizing revenue, cannot rely solely on publicity to achieve its goal.  Hence the decision to do this series of trigger spots with Richter.

With shooting being done this weekend, the new commercials are likely to be ready to air by the end of February at the latest.

Then folks will have a chance to decide whether they like seeing a little star power introduced into this “Anything’s Possible” campaign that has so radically redefined what lottery advertising can — and should – be in Illinois.

Contact Lewis Lazare at