Illinois Lottery dumps Energy BBDO, seeks new ad agency partner

Steve’s breakdown: The last campaign had a great idea but not really a “go out and buy it now” feel. Now they are looking for “revolutionary change to the brand and the image of the Illinois Lottery.”

CHICAGO, IL: The Illinois Lottery is looking for a new advertising agency, less than six months after a private consortium including Chicago ad agency Energy BBDO took over its day-to-day management and marketing under a 10-year state contract awarded last year.

Chicago-based Northstar Lottery Group, which runs the lottery under state supervision, announced that it wants “to bring revolutionary change to the brand and the image of the Illinois Lottery.”

The surprise move comes about one month after Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Michael Jones, who ran the Illinois Lottery in the mid-1980s, as the new superintendent of the Illinois Lottery, the agency that supervises Northstar. Previously, the lottery was run by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

It appears the state’s supervisory role will be anything but passive.

“The process was initiated by the state via a notification instructing Northstar Lottery Group on behalf of the Illinois Lottery to launch an open and transparent selection process for a creative advertising partner,” according to a statement from Northstar. “Northstar is looking to partner with an Illinois-based agency to help build on the success achieved over the past few months. Northstar Lottery Group will continue its relationship with OMD for media services.”

OMD is a New York-based media-buying agency owned by Omnicom Group Inc., the parent of Energy BBDO.

“Our vision is really simple,” said Mr. Jones in an interview. “We want to maximize profits to the state in an ethical, responsible manner.” Northstar’s announcement said it plans to select an ad agency based in Illinois. “I’m absolutely convinced we have the creative talent in Illinois to do this,” he added.

The lottery marketing budget, including advertising, was $45 million last year, according to Northstar.

When the state put the management contract up for bid last year, Northstar was formed by the lottery’s longtime equipment vendors, Providence, R.I.-based GTech Corp. and New York-based Scientific Games Corp., along with Energy BBDO, which won the lottery’s advertising contract in 2009 and again in 2010.

After an intense competition and protests by one of the losing bidders — a procurement process later criticized by the Illinois Auditor General — Northstar won with a promise to boost lottery profits by more than $1 billion over the next five years.

While the shakeup was unexpected, Energy BBDO bowed out gracefully.

“Our record over the last 2½ years has been stellar: vastly improved brand awareness, increasing sales year over year, record-breaking ticket launches, numerous creative awards selected by industry leaders and the largest transfer to the common school fund in the history of the lottery,” said Tonise Paul, Energy BBDO’s president and CEO, in a statement. “There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to turn around the lottery, but we take pride in the role we have played to date. We wish everyone at the Northstar Lottery Group continued success.”

Private management was an idea imposed by the Illinois Legislature, which wanted to boost lottery profits to help pay for the state’s $31-billion capital construction program. While the lottery will continue to fund education, increased profits will go toward infrastructure improvements.

Northstar is inviting ad agencies to a pre-bid meeting at the Gene Siskel Theater on Nov. 17, the date when a formal request for proposals will be posted on Northstar’s website.

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