OPINION: Mills on ... National Lottery ads

Hands up anyone who remembers the Totts. The hapless Watford couple

got their full 15 minutes of fame in April as the unlucky National

Lottery winners who didn't get their payout because they couldn't

present their ticket within the mandated 30 days. Mean, cruel Camelot

refused, citing some ridiculous clause in the small print. For an

organisation that appears extraordinarily accident-prone, and whose

chief executive is fond of describing herself as having "balls of steel"

- a remark she may live to regret - it seems fortunate indeed to have

got away with its latest gaffe with as little fuss it did.

Now we hear that Camelot, with sales in the last financial year

declining by 2.6 per cent to pounds 4.9 billion, is to double its

marketing spend to more than pounds 100 million in an effort to rebuild

sales (and meet its self-imposed target of raising pounds 15 billion for

good causes during its second licence period). The chosen methodology is

to increase the number of games and distribution channels. As if there

weren't enough already!

So hooray! A game for every occasion, wallet and mood. And a terminal on

every possible shop counter. This, we must conclude, is the marketing

and distribution equivalent of saturation bombing. If you can't charm

consumers into taking part, you have to beat them to death until they


Whatever, I imagine that every penny of that marketing spend will stick

in the throats of Kay and Martyn Tott. It may also stick in the throats

of consumers who, judging by Camelot's sales, don't have much time for

the lottery either.

But why? Is it wear-out with the concept of the lottery? Are people so

confused by the range of games on offer that they can't be bothered? Or

is there a lingering anti-Camelot feeling, despite its surprising

triumph against the self-appointed People's Champion? If there is an

element of truth in any of these, then increasing marketing and

advertising - let alone doubling it - may not prove an effective


It is against this background that the latest WCRS campaign for Camelot

launched last week. On TV and radio, it features three real-life winners

and what they did with the money. One pounds 4 million winner, devoted

to his local football team, bought the club. This little story

demonstrates the truism that when it comes to football, a fool and his

money are soon parted and tears soon follow - a message that could be

seen to undermine the whole point of winning. Two other ads bypass this

trap. In one, Roger the chef buys the restaurant he once worked in. In

the other a fishing nut builds a lake in his garden. Each ends with the

line "What would you do if you won this Saturday?", an effective trigger

(although not a subtle one) for the fantasy list-making we all indulge

in from time to time.

As a strategy, I'm sure this makes sense. The one thing the National

Lottery needs is some likeability or, failing that, winners who are


The sight of other people winning millions isn't necessarily endearing,

especially if they blow it on fast cars, fast living and nouveau-style

16-bedroom mansions with white carpets, double garages and tractor


The sight of someone indulging their passion, especially something

eccentric or harmless like fishing or football, is altogether more


In each case, the winners are ordinary blokes and the money clearly

hasn't gone to their heads. That may be enough to restore the somewhat

tatty image of the lottery, but whether it makes enough people want to

play again, I'm not sure. When it comes to that, I think there's only

one button to push: greed.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Oh come on.

Will it work? For likeability, yes. For sales, no.

What would the chairman's wife say? Football? Fishing? That's blokes'

stuff. Don't women win?