In this issue
Game of chance
Playing with dreams
|National Lottery director Dermot Griffin is targeting a new generation of players with a rebrand. He spoke with Michael Cullen about people's love of scratching|
It has been said that you are 750 times more likely to die as a result of an asteroid impact than to win the lottery. Admittedly, the man who made that claim - former Procter & Gamble marketing executive turned politician, Lembit Opik - was referring to the British Lottery, but subtract 55 million or so people out of the equation and you get the drift.
Opik, 43, born in Bangor, Co Down, to Estonian parents, was duly reminded by Observer journalist Lynn Barber that numerous people have won the Lotto but nobody to her knowledge has been killed by an asteroid. "Well," replied Opik, "these things happen very rarely but when they do, they wipe out, say, seven-tenths of life on Earth."
Dermot Griffin has the job of directing Ireland's National Lottery, of generating the maximum appeal among consumers. He must convince adults, from all walks of life and country of origin to play and to do so he has more balls in the air than your average Lotto TV show host or circus juggler. Griffin likes to spread the message: playing is fun.
Ireland's most popular bet is the Lotto jackpot. Several weeks ago, a 16-person syndicate shared a bumper payout of almost €19 million, a record for the National Lottery. The 15 men who work at the Dan Morrissey concrete and quarry plant in Co Carlow and former employee Audrey Kearns came to the lottery offices in Dublin to collect their cheque.
In July 2005, Dolores McNamara won €115m, which remains the single biggest win in EuroMillions history. There was a second Irish winner of EuroMillions this summer when a quick pick ticket sold in a shop in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, scooped €15m. The winner was a mystery, although the store owner said he could confirm the person's identity by way of CCTV but that would infringe the lottery's confidentiality rules.
The lottery's 2007 annual report says that 54 per cent of adults play its games regularly and the Lotto is the big draw for most, despite the fact that the odds of winning are 8.1 million to one. But people are lured to newsagents around the country in the off-chance that it they may live to see the dream become reality. After all, it could be you.
Each pick in the jackpot costs €1.50, so Lotto is fair value for the €12m payout, which happens more since the numbers were increased to 45. Griffin said there is nothing to indicate that more women than men play Lotto or that Cork, rather than Donegal has more players but the busiest time for ticket sales is just before the draw is made.
What can happen, Griffin said, is that a number of shops can have a number of jackpot winners. Pearse Hickey's store in Skibbereen, Co Cork, has sold a winning ticket seven times. The shop is promoted as a lucky store and they get a huge play level. As well as the free publicity a win generates, the lottery awards the store a dividend of €15,000.
Every brand needs to be refreshed and invigorated and given a new purpose to maximise its relevance among its target audience. After 21 years, the National Lottery's image had grown tired. It had become a victim of its own success due to the multiplicity of images promoting the games portfolio that had developed over the lottery's lifetime.
What was needed to give the brand some cohesion and tie all the games together was a new identity, with the An Post name being dropped. The lottery agreed and a €6m revamp was given the go-ahead 18 months ago. Brand Union, the WPP-owned design and branding agency previously known as The Identity Business, was assigned the job.
Dermot Griffin, director of the National Lottery, is less adamant than his predecessor, Ray Bates, in denying that doing Lotto is a form of gambling like backing a horse. The lottery's annual report says that 54 per cent of adults play Lotto regularly.
After some toing and froing with a number of ideas, enter a smiling green star and a trail of lesser stars partnered by a more dashing National Lottery typeface. Targeted at young people, the new branding provides a uniform image across the lottery's corporate identity, media advertising, design, PR, point of sale and sponsorships like Skyfest.
Research by Behaviour & Attitudes showed there was no room for subtlety, the new look had to be radical as the old portfolio had become passe and like ‘wallpaper'. Change was also needed to make a retail impact with points of difference and value for money and to ensure EuroMillions was seen as part of the National Lottery and not a rival brand.
A pilot scheme got underway in February in eight stores in Dublin. The new identity was launched in June and July, with shops getting new signage. Kleerex won the contract for the in-store signs while John Anthony Signs are providing the external signage. Griffin said that the rollout to the 3,600 agents will be finalised by the end of 2008.
Since the rebranding, uniformity prevails as all the games now incorporate the green star character, including Lotto, EuroMillions, Winning Streak, Telly Bingo and any of the 12 13 scratch cards on the go at any one time. Griffin said EuroMillions is like a club in that the jackpots from the nine countries' takings are pooled from which a jackpot is paid out.
Last year total lottery sales amounted to €778.5 million, a 15 per cent increase on 2006.
Before any prize money is given out to winners, the National Lottery takes a share to cover its costs and to pass on to the Department of Finance, which distributes it to good causes such as sports and arts. Last year players won €420m and good causes got €245m.
To appeal to more people aged between 24 and 34 they promote the jackpot in a quirky and amusing way. DDFH&B-JWT introduced the Mr Green (voiced by comedian Neil Delamere), Mr Purple (comic Paddy Courtney) and Mr Blue (Morgan Jones), puppets created by Brown Bag Films. They allow theme flexibility and cost effectiveness.
The ads in the lottery's early days were more cavalier. Created by McConnells, they used various humorous themes like the Lotto-winning farmer whose Ferrari was pulled by his tractor and the men lazing by the pool in some exotic location sipping cocktails and caring diddly-squat about their normal jobs, such as the lawyer (liar!), back home.
The ‘Maternity Ward' TV commercial for this summer's Millionaire Raffle created by DDFH&B-JWT duo Roisin Keown and Peter Snodden. The game has a limit of 300,000 tickets, at €20 a ticket. Players have a 150,000-to-one chance of becoming a millionaire.
The current Millionaire Raffle idea came from the US and as a member of the World Lottery Association they look at games which can be adapted for Ireland. As far as foreign nationals are concerned, the Chinese like the immediacy of a scratch card. Eastern Europeans tend to replicate the way they played Lotto in Poland or Latvia.
With Dr Patrick Murphy, a statistician with the UCD school of mathematical science, claiming that if someone starts playing Lotto now and keeps playing it each Saturday and Wednesday, it will take them 39,159 years to win, why would anyone in their right mind continue to buy a ticket twice a week. What is the psychological explanation?
Psychologist Colm Carey of The Research Centre, a regular contributor to Marketing, said a major jackpot generates a lot of excitement and brings people to the game who might not otherwise play. Carey said they are what you might call social players. They come into the game when the excitement level is raised by a big jackpot.
"In promoting a major payout," Carey said, "the National Lottery is following the advice that came from US Lotto research which recommends the best way to encourage participation is to provide bigger jackpots and make a bigger fuss with marketing and coverage in the media - that and a low understanding of the probability theory."
Most people focus on the jackpot rather than on the odds of winning Lotto. It is human nature to overestimate the odds on winning and to underestimate the chances of a negative result. People have great faith in their ability to pick the winning numbers and to maintain hope. One should remember that Lotto is an extremely easy game to play.
Some people use the same numbers all the time. They believe that the more often they fail to win, the better the chance of hitting the jackpot next time. Playing Lotto become an obsession and some people will not go on holidays without making arrangements to play in advance. Research shows that gamblers never lose, they just miss out on winning.
"From the psychological point of view," Carey added, "playing the Lotto is an example of operant conditioning using variable reinforcement. In other words, people will keep repeating an action if it's rewarded on an unpredictable basis. Getting three numbers right is a reward as is finding that your local shop is a winner. They keep going, in hope."
The rule of thumb for lotteries is that two per cent of revenue is allowed for marketing, so the annual budget is about €8m. The brand enjoys useful TV exposure on RTE. The Big Money scratch card and Saturday night game show presented by Laura Woods replaced Winning Streak for the summer. The lottery funds the prizes and RTE produces the show.
The National Lottery is 80 per cent controlled by An Post and has its own board. The company has a seven-year licence this time round as it was extended by two years. The contract expires at the end of 2010. Last time round, there were no other contenders for the franchise. Ireland is ranked 19th in the international table of lottery-spending nations.