SPENDING ESPRIT MARKS LOUISIANA LOTTO CAMPAIGN

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The TV campaign for the Louisiana Lottery's new Easy 5 game shamelessly glorifies everything shallow, materialistic, profligate, irresponsible, shortsighted and vulgarly self-absorbed about the consumer society.

It sure is wonderful.

Couldn't miss, really, given the creative team's irresistible conceit to genuinely experience the singular burden of a huge windfall. Copywriter Jim Houck and art director Pat McGuinness of Bauerlein advertising, New Orleans, angled to inject themselves into their own commercial, courageously investigating what it's like to spend a big pile of found money. Twenty grand-which, "crazily enough," as Houck puts it in the campaign's initial spot, the client actually gave them.

Although almost all TV commercials that self-referentially mention their own production are unbearable and bereft, this spending-spree gimmick is inspired from the get-go: two prodigal sons of guns, running around New Orleans and Mexico trying their damnedest to blow twenty grand in the space of a half-dozen 30-second spots.

Jim: "Playing Easy 5 is simple. Just match five out of 26 numbers."

Pat: "Spending the $20,000 top prize, however, requires a little imagination."

That's for sure. During the course of the series, we see them skydiving ($1,500), tooling around in a rented Rolls ($750/day) and deep-sea fishing on a charter ($1,225) while simultaneously getting haircuts ($39)-among other stunts. It's reasonably amusing that they joust in rented suits of armor ($1,050), get a Mexican-beach wake-up call from a mariachi band ($450) and rent the Superdome ($750) to toss a football around. But the best moments are not outlandish so much as subtle and wry: refusing half-price movie matinee tickets in favor of $7 full freight, going into a shoe store and stuffing quarters into moccasins for "loafer upgrades" and springing for $5.50 worth of two hot dogs, because, Pat says, "With $20,000, you can even afford to eat at the airport."

The two guys are somewhere between clever and obnoxious about their romp, but they're clearly having fun-as does the viewer, with vicarious delight at the audacity and juvenile hedonism of it all. Psychology, you know.

While many of us may fantasize about coming into gigantic fortunes, in our heart of hearts we know hitting the lottery is more or less like being hit by lightning-i.e., the sort of thing that happens to other people. Why bother buying that Powerball ticket for the $200 million jackpot if the winning prize is going to be shared between a retired moist-towelette folding-machine operator and an unemployed nail sculptress behind in her rent on the doublewide?

But $20,000 is a sum people can relate to, conceptualize and imagine winning themselves.

Beyond that, the emphasis on impulsive spending meshes nicely with impulse purchases of a $20,000-ceiling lottery ticket. Louisiana will sell more Easy 5 chances by dramatizing suit-of-armor rentals than it ever would by suggesting how nice it would be to prepay on the mortgage or finance the kids' college tuition.

It would probably sell even more, if the production values were better. The camera work is affected and annoying, the audio track off-mike and muddy. If the client gives the Bauerlein boys another $20,000 to play with, they'd be wise to blow the whole wad on a sound man.

Ad Age Bulletin Board on Prodigy, or by Prodigy e-mail at EFPB35A.

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