Saturday, May 4, 2013

Breathtakingly beautiful...lottery? John and Michelle Phillips' lyrics used to sway 2/3 of Californians who hate lotteries

I am really divided over this one.

Start with a 1960s pop song, performed by a quartet, about someone who is missing the state of California. Excellent lyrics, nice instrumentation (especially the instrumental break).

Now, a few decades later, re-record it in dramatic form, with an understated piano and choir. An absolutely beautiful rendition.

Then add a saying to deepen the drama - "Believe in Something Bigger." The whole mood is beautiful - and moving.

Oh, and one more thing - it's for a lottery.

In my case, when I first heard a Powerball commercial on TV, I thought, "All this for a lottery?" But my negative reaction was rather mild. R.J. Moeller, in a post entitled "California Schemin'," expressed profound displeasure at the commercial:

The state of California is currently more than $20 billion in debt for making promises it could not keep and spending money it did not have. It has an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. It taxes its citizens at higher rates than any place outside of Western Europe....

After much more of the same (see the post), Moeller then says:

But who needs balanced budgets, small business growth, innovative entrepreneurial activity, or the rule of law when you have . . . the lottery! Huzzah!

And when Moeller saw the "Believe in something bigger" slogan, he hit the roof.

If you need something to believe in, what’s bigger than the size and scope of California’s debt and deficits? I mean, besides the amount of cultural and moral decay encouraged by something like a state-funded gambling Ponzi scheme that specifically markets its “games” to low-income citizens (who are the same folks receiving the lion’s share of the entitlements causing the aforementioned debt and deficits)?

I think it's fair to say that Moeller wouldn't have reacted so strongly if the state had just run a huckster-ish "Buy Powerball tickets!" commercial. But the suggestion - vividly made via the music - that Powerball was a religious, self-affirming experience caused Moeller's extremely negative reaction. And he was just getting started:

I thought it was regrettably appropriate that the good folks at the Lotto offices chose a song –”California Dreamin’”– that was written by a man (the late John Phillips) who, apart from being a drug addict, engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Mackenzie Phillips) for decades.

But meanwhile, in the ad agency world where suicide is "edgy," the ad is being lauded.

This is the new California Lottery campaign from ad agency David & Goliath. Powerball is coming to California with the tagline “Believe in Something Bigger.” The white lottery balls fall like snow. with The Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreaming playing in the background.

It’s all very inspirational!

According to MediaPost, Powerball and David & Goliath had to pull out all the stops for this campaign.

With only about a third of consumers saying they had a positive feeling when it came to the California Lottery, the brand and its agency, David&Goliath, felt they needed to move beyond the typical lottery advertising of wealth and riches.

“We wanted a different, honest and optimistic approach to launching Powerball -- one that inspires people to believe in possibilities,” David Angelo, the agency’s founder and chief creative officer, tells Marketing Daily. “[Optimism] is what the Powerball brand stands for, and California is a brand that’s about optimism as well.”

OK, I'll admit that the ad is different. And the ad is definitely optimistic; the chance of winning the grand prize is 1 in 175 million. But is it honest - or is it manipulative?

Some of you may be wondering why I'm posting this in my music blog, rather than in my business blog. I'm writing this in the music blog because the music behind the ad is an essential part of the campaign. Music is an important part of many advertising campaigns. If you don't believe me, watch the video above with the sound off. When all you see are a bunch of crazed people in slow-motion with plastic balls all over the place, it's not that compelling, is it?

The song was co-authored by John and Michelle Phillips during a time when they were living in New York, far from California. To my knowledge, Michelle Phillips has made no public statement about the California Lottery campaign.

Papa John Phillips, for all his faults, had no idea that THIS was going to happen.
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