Will a bicoastal shop win the Lottery?

The Illinois Lottery appears to be up to its old tricks of hiring a non-Chicago, big name bi-coastal company for its upcoming comedic “Second Chance” promotional package.

Just last month, the Lottery named Energy BBDO for its $19 million business and right out of the box, the client and agency are scorning local production sources.

Admittedly, New York and L.A. production companies vastly outnumber Chicago, but that doesn’t mean the city’s smaller core of talented directors, who have successfully helmed many top national ad campaigns, should be ignored.

One of them, in fact, produced several highly acclaimed Lottery packages in the past.

You would think that Sarah Cummins, the Illinois Lottery marketing director, would have second thoughts about this kind of business practice after last October’s flap over how its $500,000 winter spot package was awarded.

The Lottery’s then-agency, R.J. Dale, hired a sales rep’s Illinois corporation. The rep had no compunctions about hiring the New York talents she represents for the job.

When asked about her decision, Cummins said it was her understanding that “a company with a Chicago office suffices as a legal production entity.”

Whether hiring practices are officially stated or not, commented 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, “When spending our scarce resources, the state of Illinois should do all it can to insure those dollars are spent locally with local employers.”

The practice of employing L.A. and New York production entities for state-funded promotions is not new, although the expectation is always that the work will be a 100% Illinois endeavor.

To get around the spirit of local state hiring, agencies justified hiring New York or L.A. directors by putting the job through a shell company set up specifically to handle this kind of subterfuge and saying, “see, we hired a local company.”

This practice of “circumventing the spirit of those rules is never-ending,” said a veteran spot producer, who asked not to be named. “The last Tourism spot was run through a shell company in Oak Park.”

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