Originally created 08/12/01

Lotto leaders seek ad angle to sell games



AIKEN - Florida has its pink pelican. Georgia has its peach. And Virginia's Lady Luck tours the state with her wand.

But what will be the image of South Carolina's lottery?

"They could work the Hunley in somehow," said Clemson University marketing professor Les Carlson.

In its first year, the South Carolina Lottery Commission will have as much as $7.5 million to promote its games and scratch-off tickets.

Using that money, an agency the commission will choose in the next month must sell the state on an issue that divided it at the ballot box.

The commission has set a deadline of Aug. 24 for advertising agencies to submit their visions for images of the state lottery. The commission has detailed what it is looking for in an image and a company.

Commission Chairman C.B. Smith said that his logo might include a Palmetto tree and that he wants advertisements to be funny.

But the commission has set restrictions on humor. Advertisements shouldn't make fun of players or nonplayers, someone's misfortune or characteristics of certain groups of people. And it wants no coarse or suggestive humor.

One expert warns, though, too many restrictions could silence the laughter.

"You're advertising with one hand tied behind your back without humor," said Chuck O'Hara, the marketing director for the Indiana Lottery.

Humor can go only so far, and lotteries often slow after their first year. Mr. Carlson said the "$64,000 question" is whether smart advertising can slow the second year slump in new lotteries.

"The thing about humor is research shows it wears out pretty quickly," he said.

Lottery officials and advertising experts say the most important aspect for the lottery's advertisers to impress on the public is the lottery's benefits.

"Why bring up the bad points? There are plenty of people who are going to do that," Mr. Carlson said. "Let's emphasize the benefits, the good things that come from the lottery. There are plenty of detractors. They are going to come over that stuff on their own. There is no reason to help out their cause."

Newly hired Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue said that the lottery will "absolutely" reach out to those 45 percent of voters who tried to kill the lottery, but that they likely won't become players.

"We're not going to sway people's opinions," he said. "We don't want to change minds. That is not our goal."

Mr. Carlson said the debate over the lottery puts advertising in the position of not only promoting the lottery but also defending it against its detractors.

"I don't know if you can advertise against that, except to the point of good benefits of a lottery," he said.

While trying to change the minds of people who don't play might not be a goal, attracting players who live in another state is.

Mr. Passailaigue said the border counties in both South Carolina and Georgia could be competitive places for lottery sales.

Rebecca Paul, the director of the highly successful Georgia lottery, told South Carolina officials last week that about $100 million comes from those counties, especially Aiken County and North Augusta.

Commission member Tim Madden said it will take more than advertising to keep those dollars in South Carolina.

"I can imagine if we don't do our jobs properly and if we don't have a lottery with credibility, people are going to go to a lottery that has credibility," he said.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or mboedy@augusta.com.