What a Stupid Lottery Ad

I stared at this stupid lottery ad for 20 minutes on the train today, trying to understand who it’s trying to lure, and how it’s trying to lure them.  Conclusion: Since appealing to rational thought is moot in the lottery space, advertisers must reach consumers’ emotional core. The dumb picture of the house with the music blaring out of it (and that trash! lol) evokes feelings of aggravation, remembrances of terrible neighbors past, which: Does not make me want to buy a lottery ticket, but maybe it works for you.



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I was thinking about the lottery earlier today, and about how it’s mostly lower-income people who play, and about how most people are like “OMFGOMG IDIOTS play the lottery; do you know your chances? It’s like 1 in 3,345,546,987! You could invest that $5 you spend every week and have like $260 at the end of a year!!!”

But what they don’t get is that poverty and living paycheck-to-paycheck is a hope-killing drudgery that never seems to get any better, and for most people, really WON’T get any better. What was the latest poll? Like 1 in 6 people that grew up in poverty will actually get out of poverty.

So anyway, I was thinking that telling someone their odds and chastising them for it being a rip-off doesn’t work, because it still offers them a glimmer of hope for one moment that things will get better. That 1 in 5 trillion chance is still better than a 0 chance. Thoughts?

@Jake Reinhardt Well not to bring race into it, but there are 40,000,000 black Americans and only one (Oprah Winfrey) is on the Forbes 400 list. Those odds don’t look so great, either.

More importantly, as you imply, $260 a year is not a life-changing amount for a poor person. It won’t allow them to buy a house or send their kids to college (even with compound interest, you’d have to save that much money for about 40 years to afford one year of college — at today’s prices). A lottery prize, on the other hand, IS a life-changing amount.*

So it’s not actually a bad decision for a poor person. Think of it this way: Option A) 100% chance that you won’t be able to send your kids to college. Option B) 0.0000001% chance that you will be able to send your kids to college. Which would you take?

Now, for a person who CAN afford a house and a college education, obviously it makes more sense to put the $260 away in a retirement account or whatever (or even just spend it on a nice restaurant meal for their birthday).

* The bigger problem, of course, is that lottery winners usually end up in worse financial distress than before, but that has nothing to do with the odds.

pandaonaplane (#1,528)

1 in 5 trillion chance is definitely better than 0 chance. I don’t really have any issues with the lottery. Especially since its revenues paid for me to go to college down here in Georgia.
Casinos on the other hand? Those are HORRIBLE. Some of my extended family is Mississippi spends every dollar they make at casinos. I currently work in addiction research and gambling is becoming more and more of an issues. It’s usually casinos, very rarely lottery tickets that people are spending their life savings on.

ennaenirehtac (#199)

I would play the lottery (hey, I quit the horribly expensive habit of smoking, so it’s still a net plus for me, all things considered), but I honestly am confused by all the lottery options. Which one is the Lottery lottery? The Powerball? Is that something different? Is there a nationwide lottery vs. a state lottery? What’s up with all those scratchers? I feel like there are too many options for me to process.

DickensianCat (#971)

The entire copy should just read, “Buy your ticket to Fuck You money today!”

speaking of advertising stirring weird emotions, I watched a documentary over the weekend that highlighted some of the films chosen to be on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, and one of the selections was a commercial from the 50’s called The House in the Middle. The ad shows three houses side-by-side, but only their exteriors: one house is relatviely clean but has some clutter on the porch, one is straight out of an episode of Hoarders, and the one in the middle is immaculately kept. A nuclear bomb drops, and two houses burn to the ground, but one is spared…guess which one? The clean house, of course! The product being sold?


Does your house need a fresh coat?? Better get on that IF YOU WANT TO LIVE! Who knew survival was that simple? Oh, the 50’s.

hershmire (#695)

I always thought fewer people would play the lottery if, instead of a ticket, the clerk takes your dollar and then says, “You lost.” Of course, that’s essentially a slot machine, so I guess it wouldn’t affect demand too much.

norbert (#6,193)

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arthure (#6,309)

I saw a very interesting campaign on, usually I don`t attract attention to such things but their ads made me want to buy a ticket. I bought for myself and each of my family member, and the younger son won! He was very happy about this and I promised him to buy him a ticked again.

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