Lottery spots exemplify best of Chicago advertising


Scene from Lottery’s “Socks” spot

It’s the eyes.  Yes, the eyes for sure.  How do we know the Illinois Lottery and its ad agency of record Downtown Partners/Chicago got this new round of very smart brand commercials exactly right?

It’s the eyes.  Absolutely the eyes.

We’re talking about those expressive eyes and the message of fear and longing they so brilliantly convey in the spot simply titled “Shopping.”  They are the eyes of the fictional character identified at the top of the spot as those of Will Meyers of Springfield, Ill. 

Notice. This man is given a name.  He is, for the purposes of this 30-second demonstration of the art and craft of advertising, a real person to whom attention must be paid. 

As we quickly notice, Will is in a store. Not just any store.  A denim store where arrayed around the premises are scores of possible denim pant options. Circling around Will is his wife — rather oblivious, it would appear, to the angst churning inside him.

Instead, she, as the succinct ad copy tells us, is busy scaling Mount Denim.  Not just shopping for jeans, mind you.  But scaling something far more vivid — Mount Denim.  Which, for a second anyway, takes us back to poor Will and reminds us of the bind he is no — not knowing how long this ascent is going to take.

And again, as we are quickly reminded, kickoff of a football game of paramount importance — to Will anyway — is coming up very soon.

In just a few seconds, the tension has ratcheted up quite a few notches.  Especially as Will — those eyes again — glances over at another hapless husband trapped in Mount Denim hell.

Then, when it seems all hope is lost for our protagonist, the camera captures Will’s wife moving towards him with unbearably good news.  “These work, let’s go,” she says, in a wonderfully matter-of-fact way.

Then, as a huge smile breaks out on Will’s face and he glances at his new amigo Robert, still glumly trapped on Mount Denim, Will and his wife head for the exit and, presumably, an afternoon of football. 

Spots exemplify excellent advertising

We can only hope the game was all Will hoped it would be.

But you see. That is the wonderful thing about this commercial from Downtown Partners.  In less than 30 seconds, the agency has created a little human drama that feels so fully fleshed out. 

In just a matter of seconds, we have come to know these people and understand something of the relationship between all of them who happen to have found themselves on Mount Denim on this particular day.

“Shopping” is an example — a great one — of what we wish so much advertising could be like.  Sure it’s a challenge to do something like “Shopping.”  To create a story with believably real characters and make it pop in under 30 seconds.

But the folks at Downtown Partners have done it. They not only have done it once in this new round of Illinois Lottery brand commercials.  They — quite remarkably — have done it twice.  

“Shopping” is great.  But so is a second new Illinois Lottery brand commercial called “Socks. ” Which, with a lovely sense of bemusement, shows us a little miracle in the realm of human behavior. 

“Socks” shows us how, often for strange and inexplicable reasons, humans can can change their behavior.  Yes, they can. 

Just witness one Jason Donahue (again a fictional real person) in “Socks.”  There he sits on the bed in the bedroom after what may have been a very long and grueling day at work.  He is attired, after all, in white shirt and tie.

But no matter. On this one miraculous day, after 23 years of tossing his socks on the floor, Jason realizes he doesn’t need to do that.  A large hamper sits on the bedroom floor directly next to where — for 23 years — he tossed those socks.

And on this one miraculous day, Jason realizes he can do things differently.  He can rise up and drop those socks in the hamper instead.  A miracle realized.  But the superb coda to this miraculous moment comes moments later with a shot of his adoring wife as she realizes what has happened.

The smile of amazement and joy that slowly breaks out on her kind face says everything we need to know about this relationship that has endured for more than two decades.

“Socks” and “Shopping,” dear friends in the advertising world, are shining examples of how it is done.  Or more precisely, how it should be done, but isn’t so much of the time as agencies all over America churn out endless TV commercials — even though marketing pundits keep insisting the TV commercial is over. Done. Dead.

Well, it’s not.  It lives on — and will live on forever — in work as rare, rich and delightful as these commercials for the Illinois Lottery.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

Agency Credits: “Shopping:” Creative Partners, Jim Schmidt, Joe Stuart; CD/Writer, Dan Consiglio; ACD/art director, Amy Ditchman; EP, Will Meyers.

“Socks:” creative partner/writer, Jim Schmidt; creative partner/Joe Stuart.

Production credits: Production company, Biscuit; director Mike Maguire.  Editorial, Beast; editor, Angelo Valencia. Colorist: Tyler Roth, CO3. Music, Nick Tremulis.

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Lewis Lazare’s column will return Jan. 8.  ReelChicago will be on hiatus until Jan. 2.