Maryland Lottery Renews Eisner

Eisner Communications came up a winner in the mandatory review for the Maryland Lottery’s $90 million advertising account.

The Baltimore shop, incumbent on the account since 1997, has been handed the $15 million annual business through 2006. A performance-based option can extend the contract an additional two years.

The state’s Board of Public Works must approve the lottery board’s recommendation.

“When you win a coveted piece of business the first time around, it’s a big moment,” said agency chief executive officer Steve Eisner. “When you renew, the win is based on solid results and a real partnership with the client. This has been a highly successful marriage.”

In the last fiscal year, under the shop’s “Just let yourself play” theme, Maryland Lottery sales topped a record $1.2 billion, a figure Eisner expects to jump another $100 million this year.

Additionally, sales for scratch-off games have more than doubled under Eisner’s stewardship, an im-provement that runs counter to trends in other lottery states.

Critical to the scratch-off advertising’s success has been Steve Etzine’s whimsical television commercials. One series of spots showcases “Stanley Bourne, flea farmer” and a commune full of 1960s hippies, who have presumably given up marijuana farming for the joys of harvesting poison ivy (“I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”).

Sources also suggested that Eisner’s strong performance had driven off potential contenders for the state business, including crosstown rival Trahan, Burden & Charles. Newly formed Chess Communications Group in Baltimore did compete for the account.

A key strategic move in managing the account, sources said, was Eisner’s decision to shift the focus of its television and other advertising messages away from the notion of a “big payoff.”

“We repositioned the whole lottery,” said Eisner. “Unlike lotteries in most other states, Maryland’s is now centered around the fun of playing. Recall and recognition among consumers have been incredibly positive.”

The agency’s lottery team includes executive group member Sarah Eisner, senior vice president and team leader David Bloom, executive creative director Etzine, and creative team leaders Craig Styrdom and Mark Rosica.