BBDO Hardly Believes It: Calif. Lottery Review Is Over

Although BBDO West officially won the four-year, $100 million California Lottery account last week, no one at the agency was quick to break out the champagne.

Tom Hollerbach, president and CEO at the Omnicom shop, knew better in the wake of an unprecedented three-year-long review process filled with delays, protests and reversed decisions. “While I was excited, I was cautiously optimistic,” Hollerbach said, laughing. “We didn’t want to jinx it—we didn’t want to celebrate early.”

After all, in 2001, DDB celebrated winning the general-market account before a protest by Grey prompted the California Lottery Commission to put it back into review. Foote Cone & Belding and then McCann Erickson would go on to be named winners and then see the Commission overturn the decisions. But this time, the resolution is final.

There were no protests following the March 10 announcement that BBDO and its media partner, PHD in San Francisco, had won the business. So at a meeting last Tuesday in Sacramento, the Lottery Commission gave BBDO the official seal of approval.

The first work from the agency, out of its San Francisco office, is set to break in August. Hollerbach said the campaign will be very different from past efforts by seven-year incumbent Grey, but declined to give details on what the agency pitched or what the new ads will look like.

Grey, which is not using an umbrella lottery theme, has been creating ads for individual games. In a spot touting the fact that Bingo can be enjoyed anywhere, for example, a man in a dentist’s chair plays his Bingo scratcher card.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jim Hasegawa, the Lottery’s director of marketing, screened a reel of BBDO spots for Visa, The Sierra Club and Pioneer. The crowd broke into applause.

BBDO beat out Grey, Omnicom’s DDB in Venice, Calif; Interpublic Group’s Dailey & Associates in West Hollywood, Calif.; and independent Ground Zero in Marina del Rey, Calif. The losing agencies will be debriefed by the commission to learn why they didn’t get the business, sources said.

The four-year contract, which starts May 1, can be extended for up to two years.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Grey Global Group’s Grey in Los Angeles received $6 million in extra fees to handle the account until BBDO takes over.

Proposals for the review were requested last November. While previous competitions used numerical scoring, this review used criteria such as “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” to score the agencies. Agencies presented before an eight-member committee that included auditing officials from other state lotteries.

For the creative assignment, the Lottery asked the contenders for ideas for Super Lotto Plus in an effort to get Californians to play lower-end jackpots rather than jumping in when the winnings reach $50 million or more.

After the first review three years ago, disclosure issues prompted Grey’s protest. The next winner was Interpublic Group’s FCB, but DDB contested media costs submitted by FCB and its media partner, Initiative in Los Angeles. The Lottery Commission rebid the media portion of the account, which McCann Erickson in Los Angeles won, but the decision was rescinded again over disclosure issues.

The Lottery Commission will soon get a new CEO and director, to be appointed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, following the resignation earlier this month of Anthony Molica after seven months on the job. He has returned to Washington state to be with his family, lottery officials said.