Reinvented Lottery approach pays off in holiday spot


Yes, we know.   By now, we know.  More than a year into the reinvention and resuscitation of the Illinois Lottery, it’s become clear that “anything’s possible.”  In fact, come to think of it, that core message couldn’t be a more apt expression for the holiday season.

Though it was coined just after the holidays last year, the tagline does have about it that sense that miracles can happen anywhere at anytime.  Though plenty of us skeptics doubt such things, what’s wrong — at this time of year anyway — with giving the line that added bit of resonance.

In any event, the line “Anything’s Possible” is seen in the middle of — and again at the end of — the TV spot that will soon enough become the holiday signature statement for the Illinois Lottery.

This is a lottery that is slowly but surely being reinvented to become less about huge dollar payouts — though one could be in the offing this very week has people talk excitedly about a possible price in excess of $400 million — and more about the pleasure of playing.

For sure, money, in all its cold hard glory, couldn’t be farther from the minds of those at Downtown Partners/Chicago who created the Illinois Lottery holiday spot, which really sneaks up on you as it comes on the screen.

New spot festive, but more subdued

Red Bud, Illinois decked out for Lottery spotIn years past, we recall, boisterously musical displays of holiday cheer, coupled with seasonal comedic hijinks, were at the center of the advertising the Illinois Lottery used to convey the holiday spirit, and thereby get everyone in the mood to buy Lottery tickets.

Here in this new holiday spot, the mood is more subdued, especially in the first image we see — a large plastic snowman bobbing in the breeze in front of a farmhouse surrounded by snow.  There’s almost a surreal quality to the scene — as if one could expect the snowman to spring to life at any moment and go into a high-pitched spiel about buying Lottery tickets.

But no.  No such fantasy ensues.  Rather we move from that perfectly appropriate, if slightly surreal, seasonal moment to another that matches it in every way.

Shot at only reindeer ranch in North America

Probably not many of us have had the opportunity to stare a real, honest-to-god reindeer square in the eye. But thanks to this Lottery holiday spot, viewers will have that opportunity  as the production crew traveled to the only reindeer ranch in North America in downstate Rantoul and stuck their camera in front of one of the hulking creatures. 

Except this creature, one quickly notices, has nothing like a red nose to suggest he’s part of Santa’s transportation contingent.  Rather, this guy has only an awesome set of antlers and eyes that one fixates on immediately.

Putting the imagery of the plastic snowman and the reindeer back to back couldn’t have been some sort of editing coincidence.  Clearly, the creators of this spot wanted to establish in the viewer’s mind a notion of how to go about creating a holiday spot that is festive — but different.

As one is digesting these first visuals and the thoughts they engender, one also realizes there is no voiceover screaming at one to buy Lottery tickets.  In fact the first 15 or so seconds are filled only with the unusual imagery and Nick Tremulis’s understated music underscoring.

Low key pitch about ‘little things’

Holiday-designed Lottery ticketThe first voiceover in the spot only comes well after the 15 second mark in this 30-second effort — a sign that no one could accuse this spot of going for the hard-sell. Even when the voiceover begins, it begins by talking about the “little” things that make the holidays so special in Illinois. 

Not big. Or brassy. Or excessively showy.  But little.

And that becomes the bit of genius that sets up the only sell this commercial has in it — the pitch to purchase those little Illinois Lottery instant game tickets — all of which have been recently redesigned to vividly play up their ties to the holidays and the festive possibilities they represent.

So the spot ends with the tagline “Anything’s Possible” flashed on the screen beneath a single string of holiday colored lights.  The great effort that has gone into underdressing the production only adds to the simple charm and to the message that this isn’t about excess in any form — especially excessive focus on big cash payouts.

Lottery repositioning a risky undertaking

So with the holidays now upon us, the rebranding and the repositioning of the Illinois Lottery goes on.  We have been reminded again and again that this is a perilous mission that Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones and ad agencies Downtown Partners and Commonground have undertaken.

There are always those out there in a state such as Illinois who want risk takers and true leaders to fail so the rest will feel less insecure.  Less disappointed with their own place in the scheme of things.

But as we ponder that snowman blowing in the wind or that reindeer staring intently at us through the camera lens, remember it’s the holidays.  We should all want good things to happen — especially to the good people trying the hardest.

And with a little luck and a lot of smarts, they will.

Agency credits:  Downtown Partners Chicago.   Jim Schmidt and Joe Stuart, creative partners;  Dan Consiglio, CD / copywriter;   Amy Ditchman ACD / art director; Carol King,  producer.

Production credits:  59 Films & Fiber Films. Joe Otting , director.  Beast editorial, Morgan Bradley, editor.  Nick Tremulis Music.

Contact Lewis Lazare at