Lottery ads are often misleading and sometimes downright dishonest. They routinely overemphasize the chances of winning, and typically don't provide any information about the true odds. They live in a blissful dream world where people feel regret only when they don't play and their numbers hit—not when they do play and they don't. The size of the typical prizes is frequently exaggerated, too. As The New Republic once pointed out, an old D.C. lottery game's slogan, "A million a day. Just play," would have been more accurate if it had read, "No one has won more than $5,000 in the history of the game."
Ad agencies don't apologize for—or even feel the need to justify—their work on lottery accounts, even if it is mercenary. (They don't beg forgiveness for selling fast food, either.) Yet it's an odd position to be in. The most skillful lottery advertising can be seen as the most insidious, tempting more and more players to try their luck when, the fact is, most don't fully understand the risk. Among the most notable examples of this: the New York Lottery's "Hey, you never know" campaign, which has had great success playing on the false expectations of the target market with one of the most humble, folksy and inviting taglines imaginable.
Still, the fantasy of winning the lottery is fertile ground for ads that can be hugely entertaining. Everyone loves the question: What would you do with a million dollars? (It's almost as good as its seedier corollary: What would you do for a million dollars?) And now, the Spanish national lottery takes the possible answers to new levels of inspired weirdness in this spot from Madrid agency Shackleton.
Forget just quitting your job and buying a fancy car. What you should really do is turn your boss into a circus clown by rubbing his smug little head. Then, you should crash through your office wall to the great outdoors, where street signs will explode into confetti to celebrate your good fortune. Next, try jumping through those holes in the sidewalk—they're portals!—and into the churning waters off a tropical island. There, accompanied by the beautiful soulmate you just met, you'll be able to fly without mechanical assistance—surely the purest human fantasy of all. "Do what you want," says the tagline. It's all within your grasp. All you have to do is buy a ticket.
The spot is undeniably hypnotic, but also peculiar. It seems almost to be a parody of lottery advertising, given the outlandish visions that are laughable even for the category. But maybe this is the next step in lottery advertising. Having promised everything possible under the sun, the ads must now promise things that are impossible. In a way, that's more honest—a tacit acknowledgement that all promises in lottery commercials are bogus and not to be believed. That message might not be great for business, but it could make for some more fun commercials. Perhaps the next New York Lottery spot could promise eternal paradise in heaven to its paying customers.
Hey, you never know.
Agency: Shackleton, Madrid, Spain
Directors: Belén Gayán, Nacho Gayán
Creative Director: Juan Nonzioli
Agency Producers: Manuela Zamora, Cristina Cortizas
Production Company: Agosto
Producer: Toni Moreno
Postproduction: El Ranchito
Postproduction Supervisor: Daniela Borges
Sound: Beat Music