These lottery ads didn’t need to be lucky to be good

—Craig Redmond had detected a new trend in lottery advertising: more earnest and heartfelt messaging that evokes the randomness of the game of life—

I’m the kind of person who thinks about what they’re going to do when they win the lottery, but never actually buys a ticket.

You might call that the ultimate expression of wishful thinking. Or, what my wife might more accurately describe as stupid.

I’ve also always loved lottery advertising. It’s the same way I adore video game advertising, even though I’ve never been a gamer. Or maybe it’s like a soldier who loses a limb in battle but still feels phantom pain long after the terrible loss. Though in my case, I’ve never been to battle nor lost a limb… but I digress.

(Did I mention that I’ve always thought if I opened my own advertising agency, I would name it “We Digress”? Oops… There I go again.)

Lottery advertising over the years has leaned mightily into the happenstance frivolousness of the category, using humour to lighten the guilt that comes with making an investment that usually has next to no chance of ever delivering a return.

At my beloved old Vancouver agency Bryant, Fulton and Shee, we did some very funny lottery work with spokesman Leslie Nielsen, who shared his failsafe strategies for winning—such as relying on the “Luck of the Amish” instead of the Irish. As memory serves, Nielsen always carried around his prankster fart machine, promising instant hilarity at the expense of unsuspecting victims, but…oh my, there we tangentially go again.

Hopefully by now, you’ll be starting to follow my continually derailing train of thought as analogous to the randomness of lottery odds.

And if not, perhaps you’ll get it by reviewing what seems to be a new trend in embracing that arbitrarily unpredictable capriciousness of lottery gambling. A much more earnest crop of ads that look at sweepstakes like life’s own games of chance, and through a more heartfelt, post-pandemic lens.

The one lovely thread that weaves all three yarns together, is that they’re all knitted from the same woolly ball of fortune—the ticket itself. It’s as if that little piece of paper is as vulnerable to the blindness of luck or misfortune as the chances of winning for the person purchasing it in the first place.

In Spain, for example, the Christmas lottery is a time-honoured tradition that has yielded some charming advertising true stories for years. In this most recent case, the story of a ticket that follows a blustering wind’s whimsy.

Spanish National Lottery

From New Zealand, comes the tale of a Kiwi flight attendant who has her lottery ticket’s fate sealed in Thailand, yet emotionally attached to her more than she could have ever imagined.

New Zealand Powerball

And then Christmas in Britain comes a little late for a couple of star-crossed lovers whose destiny is etched right into that lottery ticket, albeit in a smudgy, puddle predicated kind of manner.

UK National Lottery: Christmas Love Story

After all is said and rarely won, the lotteries are like any other parity product. Only the parity comes in the form of collective low expectations and shared waning faith. Misery loves company as it were.

So, just like any brand doggedly fighting for market share without anything to distinguish itself from the competition, brand affection is one’s only hope. And it might just give that worthless piece of paper immeasurable emotional value that could keep players’ hopes alive.

So, when is the next Lotto Max, anyway?

Craig Redmond