Ad firm won Lottery betting on consumers Jackpot: Eisner & Associates says its advertising philosophy of focusing on the consumer's perspective instead of the client's won it a five-year, $14 million-a-year account.

October 03, 1997|By Samantha Kappalman | Samantha Kappalman,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After wresting the Maryland State Lottery account from the advertising agency that had it for 15 years, Eisner & Associates Inc. knew its unusual approach was the deciding factor.

Steve Eisner, president and chief executive of Baltimore-based Eisner, said the "account planning" philosophy focuses on the consumers' perspectives and ideas instead of the ideas of the client or the agency.

Today, the lottery will see the fruits of Eisner's labor when the first commercial for the Big Game, the multi-state lottery game with the largest jackpot, airs.

"We convinced them very quickly that the right kind of homework gets into the psyche they want to reach, and that leads to greater sales," Eisner said. "The Big Game is a lottery product that applies to everyone. What this spot captures is not changing life to buy a castle, a chauffeured limousine or a personal moon rocket, like other lottery campaigns. The concept here is if I had the opportunity to win a lot of money I would own my own time and put me in the driver's seat."

After seeing a rough cut of the commercial, lottery director Buddy Roogow said it showed exactly what he wanted.

"We want to portray excitement, choices in life and move away from the dreams and fantasies of other campaigns," said Roogow.

"The commercial portrays an environment of homes, nothing particularly fancy, and the winner gets to watch the folks in his neighborhood trudging off to work," Roogow said. "When I came to work here in October last year, I made a decision very early on that our lottery was going to move its total advertising focus to recognize that consumers are smart. We have to recognize that in this competitive market, from Pennsylvania, Virginia and the slots in Delaware, that we can compete successfully if we tell consumers that the lottery is entertaining and a winning experience."

David Blum, vice president of strategic planning at Eisner, which won the five-year, $14 million-a-year account in April from Trahan, Burden & Charles Inc., said he and his researchers spoke with hundreds of people as they bought lottery tickets, ran 12 focus groups and conducted telephone surveys with more than 500 adults throughout the state to find out what they associate with large amounts of money and what they knew about the Big Game.

"There is a pre-conception that people would not keep their jobs if they won big, but we found that there was a 50 percent chance that they would," Blum said. "Winning big money to people meant, 'I can choose to relax.' That's the impetus we used for our commercial."

He said a driving force for this campaign was to put responsibility back into lottery advertising.

"Those images of mansions promote unrealism to people," he said.

Eisner said that people in Baltimore, from generation to generation, have not wanted mansions, but instead have had a real pride in their own neighborhoods.

"There's a sense of loyalty to individual groups," Eisner said. "Had we approached this on a surface level we never would have reached the insights we reached."

The brick houses on Mannington Avenue in northeast Baltimore, where the commercial was filmed two weeks ago, are very similar. That's why the neighborhood was chosen instead of the other 49 scouted. Mannington Avenue residents have lived there for an average of 41 years, said resident Dot Bresnick, who has lived there for 45.

Bresnick, her husband, Bruce, and a handful of other residents watched while the commercials were filmed. The crew was there for two days, from 5: 30 a.m. to just before sunset. Bresnick said the filming was very exciting, as long as it was just a couple of days. She said they loved interacting with the 60-person crew, and that they were invited to lunch with them under a big blue tent that was set up on the street.

Blum said spending time in the neighborhood for the filming was like "spending time with family."

Eisner, who started the account planning concept in his agency seven years ago, said the point of the commercial is to show consumers that if they win the lottery they can do anything they want.

"We made a decision in '95 to pursue this business. We knew we would have to either go after it hard, or pass," he said. "We had 18 people at the pitch meeting in the beginning of March to show them the amount of people that would be involved."

Blum said the agency knew the account was coming up for bid in February, so they started doing "intensive" fieldwork in October 1996 so that they would win the account.

"Part of our change in the advertising was to show that the Maryland lottery is not one thing, it's a portfolio of products," he said. "One of our first challenges was to clearly differentiate them."

Blum said that in the last two years, the account planning approach, which originated in England, has been integrated into the 58-year-old agency's daily life, and has become stronger with each account. But Eisner, he said, which also works with Black & Decker/DeWalt, Helix Health and Baltimore-Washington International Airport, is not the only agency to use this approach in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Jim Osterman, Southeast editor for Adweek Magazine, said account planning means being somewhat of an advocate for consumers.

"Instead of trying to set an agenda, you go in and try to find out about the hot buttons. This is an approach that seems to be working well for a lot of people," he said. "Other approaches do research, come up with ideas and then show it to focus groups. They take the idea that tests well and use it."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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