Wherever you look in British society, institutions – the monarchy, the police, government, the Church and the legal system – are under threat from a cynical population.
But since its launch in November 1994, the National Lottery has become a new national institution – one people actually like and believe in. Advertising has played no small part in making that happen.
Support for the notion of a Nat-ional Lottery was by no means unanimous. The Grand National once a year represented a harmless flutter for most people: whether the Lottery would fall into the same category was debatable. There was a fear a nation of gamblers would emerge.
Research also identified possible confusion about the game. How easy would it be for the public to grasp?
Advertising made the Lottery simple and understandable. But its greatest contribution was to create fun and excitement. It also legitimised the game by tapping into the common desire to dream.
The creative strategy at launch was to develop anticipation, intrigue and excitement by focusing on chance – anyone could win millions and “It Could Be You”.
The launch commercial, “The Hand of Good Fortune” devised by Saatchi & Saatchi, delivered this idea in a mystical way, with a dramatic soundtrack.
The agency created an idea in “It Could Be You”, and a logo in the crossed fingers, that could be used across television and posters, press and door-drops and even A-frames outside newsagents.
By the middle of January 1995, two months after launch, trial had reached 86 per cent with 65 per cent of all adults claiming to play every week. Weekly sales hit 55m.
After the first year, weekly participation had reached 72 per cent and sales for the year totalled 3.33bn, generating 1.15bn for the Government’s “good causes”.
Research also showed that within eight weeks of launch, 81 per cent of the adult population believed “playing The National Lottery is a perfectly acceptable, everyday thing to do”. And 78 per cent thought that “the National Lottery is a really good thing for this country”.
When the “Black Dress” ad was aired in November 1995, 82 per cent of adults believed it was amusing, and 42 per cent believed it to be “one of the best ads I’ve seen on TV recently”. Millward Brown modelling on the television advertising suggests an awareness index for the campaign as a whole of 13, peaking at 20 for “Black Dress” on a norm of eight.
More importantly, sales modelling has identified a 95 per cent retention rate, so high that the Lottery’s advertising property now requires little maintenance, representing huge cost savings.
Within 18 months of launch, the UK Lottery has become the biggest in the world, and through the efficiency of its operation, delivered the highest amount to “good causes” of any lottery in the world.
Things could have been very different. As is the way in Britain, national institutions are there to be criticised – the Lottery is no exception, and Camelot has to live with that flak.
Andrew Slamin, Sales and marketing director UK Charity Lotteries
The National Lottery is living proof of the virtue of size – mega prizes, massive sales, huge computer systems and the kind of advertising budget which would make most brand managers weep with envy.
Indeed, with a spend so overwhelmingly large, it would be easy to argue that any advertising would have done the trick. Just stick on the logo and tell them how much they can win. But that would be inaccurate and undoubtedly unfair. There was a lot at stake prior to the launch of the Lottery – commercial money, political reputations, agency kudos and, most importantly, future revenue for “good causes”.
Advertising had an important role to play in securing a successful launch. It had not only to generate the consumer excitement and interest necessary to trigger massive and immediate sales, but also explain and reassure the public of the ease of playing the game.
The use of the “hand of fate” beckoning a series of ordinary people to the pot of gold, reflected the core of the Lottery’s appeal – human greed. By making that possibility available to everyone who plays, even cynical, hardnosed punters – who should know better – are seduced into believing that it could be them. Indeed, the line “It could be you”, probably more than any other element, is the one core campaign feature which carried real resonance. In tandem with the dreaded finger, it completely overrides the subconscious knowledge that you’ve more chance of seeing Elvis riding the Loch Ness Monster than winning the jackpot.
Having successfully announced the fun and excitement of the weekly draw, the campaign has been developed using the same basic idea, but attempting to input humour into a series of ordinary everyday settings. Some of these have worked well – the wife complaining of the misuse of her black dress – but others have looked laboured.
As the Lottery wagon rolls on (or over) with a momentum all of its own, driven forward by the constant media coverage of winners and the huge jackpots, it is difficult to assess the future role of advertising. Other than as an occasional cajoler and reinforcer, the job has been done – largely .
The real issue for the National Lottery’s advertising must surely now lie with its scratchcards, where the power of the National Lottery brand overwhelms the sub-branding of Instants.
This market doesn’t generate the constant barrage of winners publicity which the weekly draw attracts and has a different and faster-moving dynamic. It is a market where a lot of persuasion and excitement is required and advertising must be the primary source. This is where the real challenge for Camelot, and Saatchi & Saatchi, lies.