Trojan Dog, Trojan Hedgehog and Trojan Kitten

The Supreme Court of Netherlands ruled in January 2015 that the Dutch national lottery, Staatsloterij, deceived the public between 2000 and 2008. The trial was prompted by the discovery that the lottery was including unsold tickets too in the draw, thus significantly reducing the chance that customers could win. It seems Staatsloterij’s advertising used misleading claims to lure buyers and this was based on misrepresenting the chances of winning.

This was one of the background contexts for the Dutch advertising agency TBWA\NEBOKO that was tasked with the responsibility of promoting Staatsloterij New Year’s Eve draw, the largest lottery draw of the year, in 2018.

The reputational damage caused to the brand by earlier advertising misrepresentation meant the brand and the agency did not want to use conventional narratives for a lottery brand that focus on chances of winning or the prize money’s size. They needed to do something different, to wean the attention away from a lottery’s main draw (pun intended) or appeal, yet get people interested and talk about the draw as a must-buy item during the new year holidays.

So, TBWA\NEBOKO came up with the ‘Frekkel’ campaign. The emotionally appealing narrative is an excuse to feature the new year draw by Staatsloterij as a must-indulge cultural activity while not drawing attention to the product explicitly.

The people in the ad are seen buying the lottery ticket, talking about it, expecting to win, and planning what they might do if they win. But that’s not the focus of the narrative at all – all this happens incidentally even as another, more heartwarming story is playing the forefront!

That story involves a scruffy little dog named Frekkel! The narrative is told from Frekkel’s point of view and what happens to the dog is the trojan horse inside which Staatsloterij sells the idea of desire for the lottery!

Even the ending, where something unexpected happens to the lottery ticket, is part of the overall idea to not shine the focus on the lottery but keep it smartly incidental to the entire narrative!

Since the 2018 new year’s draw advertisement used a little animal and became a huge success, the agency and brand found it appropriate to go back to the same basic template for 2019 too!

In 2019, instead of a dog, the focus is on an adorable hedgehog!

The narrative starts exactly the same way – a man buys a new year lottery. And unlike the 2018 film where he was with the animal, this time, he stumbles on the cute hedgehog on the way and brings it home. The lottery ticket is an integral part of the narrative in unexpected ways that showcases the man’s empathy more than the interest in winning! And that’s the ad too wins, in our hearts!

If the template worked for 2 years in a row, why think of drop it?

My favorite is the latest (2020) film by Staatsloterij and TBWA\NEBOKO. The same template – a little, adorable animal at the center of the story. This time, it’s a beautiful black kitten!

Also, the man doesn’t start by buying a lottery ticket in the narrative. He buys it towards the end of the film and does something very unusual with the ticket. That ending is all heart and harks back to the empathy showcased by the man in the 2019 film.

The rest of the events in the 2020 film are predictable, once you understand the flow of things that happen. It’s like a fairy tale, with a touching ending. But underneath the heartwarming story-telling is the placement of devices to create a desire for the lottery ticket. It is shown as something of a must-do tradition during the new year and is everywhere, indulging the viewers to buy into that notion.

This is a wonderful example of shifting the frame of reference away from what is usually used in creating a desire for lottery ticket purchases. That too, for 3 years! Subconsciously, the narratives make the idea of buying the new year lottery appealing to the target audiences, even as they unwittingly become participants in making the films popular by liking and sharing it for a completely different reason (because the stories are primarily about good people and goodness of the heart more than lottery tickets).

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