Spain has been surprised by the news that, after eight consecutive years, the actor Clive Arrindell, known as “the Christmas bald guy”, will not be the advertising image spreading good luck for the Christmas Lottery, which takes place on the 22nd of December. The main reason for the change of image, according to the organization which runs the lottery, is the dominance of the main character in the advertisements, with the result that people were practically unaware of anything else that was going on behind. This has opened up a new debate in marketing: Is it good or bad to change an advertising campaign after eight years of success? Could a change in the advertising campagin provoke a fall in product sales? Can an image eclipse the message of the advertisement?
The first Christmas lottery draw in Spain took place on the 18th of December in Cadiz, and the present name “Christmas Draw” (Sorteo de Navidad) first appeared in the draw, which took place on the 23rd of December, 1892. Today, the Christmas draw, which now takes place on the 22nd of December, is the largest and most popular of all Spanish lottery draws. According to sources close to the State Lotteries and Gaming Agency, Christmas lottery ticket sales in 1998, the first year of the “bald guy” campaign, were 229,000 million pesetas (1,380 million euro). The experts assure everyone that the absence of the “bald guy” will not cause a fall in sales in the December draw, mainly because of the success of the precampaign launched during the summer under the slogan “And if the luck falls here?” Its objective was to encourage citizens to ask themselves whether they were to be the lucky ones this year.
Renewal, Not Monotony
The experts agree on the fact that, despite their success, advertising campaigns have to be updated in order not to become monotonous. However, the case of the lottery is different because it is, in itself, a peculiar product. It is seasonal (bought in the run-up to Christmas) and driven by chance and luck (people buy the lottery on the off-chance that they will win). It’s also a peculiar product in that expectations needs to be generated among the people every year. There is agreement among experts that the message is always the same: “It’s Christmas, the lottery is coming, buy it because you might win”. The only thing that needs to be changed is the context, so that the sense of expectation is aroused.
Creativity is the key to good ideas but it is also necessary to design a good strategy, explains David Riu, professor at Esade. In his view, “a product can be associated with a code, in this case the lottery with the bald man who advertises it. A complete change of scenario can destroy an asset which has been built up over a long time. I would be in favor of changing part of the scenario, in this case the bald guy, but strengthening the context, which is the feeling of Christmas. The question is: Is the bald man really what generates excitement year in and year out among the people? With the risks involved in substituting the bald man, there is a need for a new campaign which arouses more expectation,” he explains.
In the experts’ opinion, advertising campaigns have a very limited impact on lottery sales. Everyone is aware of the existence of the lottery and buying it has become a tradition. It has no competitors because it is the draw par excellence. What is necessary is to remind people of the draw, as it is a one-off occasion and gets people interested in finding out whether they have been lucky.
In order to award the advertising campaign in Spain, the State Lotteries and Gaming Agency annually invites bidders. In 1998, the French agency Publicis was chosen to carry out the campaign. The agency managed to convert the British actor Clive Arindell into the image of Christmas in Spain until this year, when the Spanish agency Ricardo Pérez Asociados won the contract.
This year, the State Lotteries and Gaming Agency have changed the advertising of the most important draw of the year. The icon of the last eight years, the “bald guy of the Lottery,” as he has come to be known among Spaniards, will no longer appear in his black suit wishing people luck by blowing bubbles at them.
The philosophy of the campaign has remained the same. According to the experts, the image of the bald man is associated with the draw but is not the reason why people buy up lottery tickets. “The public administration cannot work forever with a single supplier. Sometimes it is a question of legislation, other times a question of ethics, and on occasion, of pure aesthetics,” explains Gildo Seisdedos, marketing professor at the Instituto de Empresa.
According to María Avello, associate professor in the Department of Marketing and Market Research of the Complutense University of Madrid, it is unusual that characters acquire such prominence, although at times it does happen. “Cases where this is especially likely to occur are those where a celebrity is used to advertise the product. The celebrity crowds out the message and the product. The bald guy of the lottery is a case of a celebrity without a name. He is simply a mysterious character who distributes luck and dreams.”
Indeed, the “bald guy” personified several values identified with the Lottery. “The character transmits hope, love, dreams, melancholy, happy reunitings,” says Avello. Seisdedos also asserts that the bald man is associated with the Christmas values of “magic” and “luck.”
In Riu’s opinion, “the bald man has been an icon which has been closely linked with the lottery. Though the character has become very famous and is instinctively associated with the luck involved in the lottery, it has not crowded out the product being advertised.” However, according to Riu, the danger with perpetuating the bald man is that the “expectation is not renewed”. Is this the right time to change the advertising? “Maybe people are tired of the bald guy, or it’s simply a case of more of the same. Care has to be taken to ensure a successful change. Every change entails a risk but why can’t it be a change for the better?”
Avello, meanwhile, is sceptical about the existence of a mathematical formula which would indicate the precise moment that the line of communication of an advertisement can be successfully changed. “What is true, however, is that when there exists the perception that some element of the advertisement overshadows the message, then that could indicate that the time for a change has arrived.”
Different opinions exist on the issue of whether or not the bald man should continue spreading luck among Spaniards in the Christmas draw. What is clear, however, is the value added by the emotional game that is the Lottery.
Bill Bernach, recognised advertising pioneer, once stated that “communication is a subtle art that blooms in freshness and withers with repetition,, which may apply here. According to the experts, the bald man may no longer be arousing the expectation associated with buying a lottery ticket because he never changes.
For this reason, the experts consider a change of context to be crucial because it’s necessary to sell expectation in a different fashion. “You need to know how to explain it. The crux of the issue is clear but at each moment you need to explain it in a different manner. We’re no longer in the 1980s when you probably bought a ticket with the hope of winning so that you could buy a house. If you won today, you’d probably try to change your life. For this reason, the story needs to be told from a different perspective” says Riu, who notes that “the lottery is a classic Christmas product.”
Associating a Product with a Brand Image
The experts agree that creating an image is not effective if we cannot conceive a reason for acting and visualizing in an original fashion, especially in the case of a change after a successful campaign.
The professors have no doubts that the bald man is not a determining factor in encouraging people to buy a lottery ticket this Christmas. “This is a purchase which doesn’t need advertising to attract people, as their main drive comes from the possibility that they might get lucky and win. It’s crucial, however, to make people aware of the time of year, so I’d always make sure to have campaigns to remind people. If there was absolutely no publicity, I believe sales would indeed fall,” says Riu.
Seisdedos considers that the change is related to the public administration’s system of contracting. “As the administration is public, it can’t stay forever with the same supplier.” However, he goes on to remark that “the change amounts to wiping out a well-established brand image.”
According to Avello, a new campaign always involves risks. “As with other products, the sale of Christmas Lottery tickets doesn’t depend only on advertising. In any case, one may be willing to accept the risk of a hypothetical fall in sales in the short term in exchange for a greater long-term increase in sales,” she explains. She goes on to say that “continuing with the bald guy entails no risks, especially given that sales haven’t stopped growing in recent years. A new line of communication, on the other hand, always involves a risk which must be evaluated. And while you can apply different types of research to the new campaign, the final result won’t be known with certainty until the campaign is under way.”
In Spain, there is already speculation that the new spot announcing the Christmas Lottery will be released in the middle of November. According to sources close to the action, it will show situations in which people will closely identify with the feeling of Christmas. Will Spaniards miss the bald guy? Or will the new ad rejuvenate the expectation involved with playing this year? These questions remain to be answered.