It’s been a year since Lotto sailed the pirate ship in ‘Pop’s Gift’ onto Kiwi TV screens, and the organisation has now followed this up with another fantastical piece of storytelling in a new spot called ‘Mum’s Wish’.
Again conceptualised by DDB and shot by the Sweet Shop, the new ad starts on an average day with a group of children coming together to fulfil a wish of their recently passed mother. From there, the narrative oscillates between the present and the past as the viewer is taken on an elaborate treasure hunt orchestrated by the larger-than-life mother, who hid a massive bounty in her garden for her kids.
“The mum is a bit like Kaiser Sousa out of the Usual Suspects,” says DDB chief creative officer Damon Stapleton. “She’s put on like the biggest prank of all time.”
Stapleton says that it was incredibly important to the team to come up with an original story worthy of viewers’ time.
“If you have a line like ‘imagine’ you have a certain responsibility,” he says. “As a brand, Lotto is about taking people beyond the ordinary.”
Stapleton says the team worked hard to avoid clichés, considering 16 different stories before settling on this one.
“We started wide, working on a range of stories and themes, looking for a story that hasn’t been told.”
Aside from originality, another factor that drew Stapleton and, perhaps more importantly, Lotto chief marketing officer Guy Cousins to this story was the fact that it told a story about generosity rather than an extravagant show of wealth.
“We looked to our big winners for inspiration,” says Cousins. “Back in the day they would’ve bragged about cars and things like that, but now we’re seeing winners talk more about acts of generosity.”
This shift to generosity was also reflected in Pop's Gift and in a recent campaign showing radio and TV personality Jesse Mulligan pointing out all the good Lotto had done with the funds raised from ticket sales.
Of course, there is still room within the Lotto brand for a cheeky bit of extravagance and materialism, with some recent radio ads referring to round-the-world trips with friends and animated ads still showing overseas ski trips, but the core branding work released by Lotto over the last year is largely focused on promoting an image of generosity.
"The prize is in the sharing,” says Cousins. “That’s always been part of our brand, but it’s something we’re trying to rekindle right now.”
And Cousins believes this objective will be achieved by telling stories that viewers love.
“We’ve told some great stories in the past, like Wilson, and it was clear that we had to go back to great storytelling. It’s too easy to bombard people with messaging, but these days people have the option to just screen out. So it’s actually more incumbent on us to tell fantastic stories.”
What's more is that Cousins says that the brand's commitment to storytelling has delivered strong commercial results.
"Our brand measures have lifted quite considerably over the last 12 months in particular. We had a demonstrable sales uplift when we launched [the new brand, changing from NZ Lotteries to Lotto NZ], and we’ve continued to grow in sales performance periodically. It’s one of a number of factors driving this brand upwards."
This is in some ways at odds with the current trend in online advertising, which has focused on doing as much as possible, cheaply, instead of doing something substantial that really matters. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Pepsi president Brad Jakeman’s challenge to agencies to produce 5,000 pieces of content a year.
Stapleton says this commitment to mass rather than quality was quite apparent in the Spikes entries he recently adjudicated over.
“I must’ve gone through around 500 pieces of work, and there were loads of ads that are exactly the same,” he says. “The scenarios are the same, the situations are the same. It’s one gag. I don’t want to say it’s becoming an epidemic, but there’s a lot of work that’s the same.”
Advertising isn’t alone in this regard. In a recent article on Slate, writer Liam Hoare observed that singer and former YouTube star Troye Sivan only truly realised his creative potential when leaving behind the online video streaming channel.
Most of the content released on the platform, argues Hoare, is derivative, relying on mimicry and meme, rather than actual originality. One YouTuber will often copy another’s approach, who will copy another’s and so forth. And the advertising industry has willfully embraced this approach as well, copying whatever viral trinket they can get their hands on. There’s a reason why we’ve had so many pointless social experiments over the last two years.
The point here is not digital channels are crappy, but rather that the standards good advertising was built on still matter.
Stapleton points to Under Armour as a brand that was built in the digital age.
“Under Armour was an unknown brand five years ago, but it’s made good stories,” says Stapleton.
“It’s hard to build a brand if you don’t have a narrative. What storytelling does is create some glue to stick everything together.”
The same argument could also apply to Apple, Nike, John Lewis, Heineken, Beats and even the Spanish Lottery. Despite all the rhetoric arguing that viewers don’t care if a video is grainy, each of these brands continues to roll out large-scale video ads celebrating their brands.
“The reason I believe in storytelling is because the one thing you want from people is their time,” says Stapleton. “And a lot of advertising today doesn’t give the viewer anything in return. And what we try to do is make pieces of work that give the viewer something beyond just information.”
And in the age of information overload, it seems more important than ever to do something that really catches the imagination or attention of the viewer.
“I don’t think you have to make thousands and thousands of things,” says Stapleton.
“I think you need to make one thing that everyone wants to look at.”
Client: Lotto NZ
Chief Marketing Officer: Guy Cousins
Head of Brand and Communications: Keri Merrilees
Chief Creative Officer: Damon Stapleton
Executive Creative Director: Shane Bradnick
Creative Director: Mike Felix
Creative Director: Brett Colliver
Lead Business Partner: Zoe Alden
Lead Business Partner: Nikki McKelvie
Business Director: Jaheb Barnett
Chief Strategy Officer: Rupert Price
Executive Planning Director: Lucinda Sherborne
Executive Producer: Judy Thompson
Assistant Producer: Nikita Kearsley
Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Managing Director: Fiona King
Producer: Larisa Tiffin
Director: Steve Ayson
DOP: Lachlan Milne
Post Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Post production online: Palace Studio
Editor: Simon Price, The Sweet Shop
Music: Soundtree, London