Hollerbach looks to expand BBDO with California Lottery

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Tom Hollerbach has won the lottery. Now, BBDO West's president-CEO faces the challenge of persuading Californians to take their chances.

In April, Mr. Hollerbach's agency won the four-year, $100 million general-market account for the California Lottery, after a contentious review process that lasted three years and was entangled in protests from several West Coast agencies over how the review was conducted. Now that the Lottery commission has finally selected an agency, it's time to focus on the marketing challenges.

"The Lottery needs to attract more users," Mr. Hollerbach said. The SuperLotto Plus, however, has suffered because the Lottery itself has been unlucky. Too many players pull winning numbers early on, and as a result, the pot for the next drawing resets at $7 million, well below the frenzy-driving $100-million-plus pots that accumulate after a string of unsuccessful drawings. "We have to make them realize $7 million or $20 million is an awful lot of money," he said.

That will be particularly important as the Lottery angles to persuade the California Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and ultimately the state's voters, to reduce the portion of Lottery sales going to schools from 34% to 26%, shifting the money to winners of scratch-off games. Lottery executives argue the shift will increase play and therefore increase the overall dollar amount given to the school system. For the 2002-2003 fiscal year, the Lottery gave California schools about $124 a pupil, or $1 billion.

Personally, Mr. Hollerbach decided to enter to win late last year when he saw potential for a jackpot $100 million account, with an option for a two-year, $25-million-a-year renewal.

`a flier'

"We knew we were going to take a flier," Mr. Hollerbach said, particularly in light of the Lottery's long-running series of missteps in trying to find a new agency. BBDO West, a unit of Omnicom Group, consulted with sibling shops to come up with a "completely different strategic approach," one packing a more "visceral" edge, which "was going to resonate or not" with the Lottery decision-makers, he said. Its first campaign based on the work breaks in August.

Mr. Hollerbach, 45, finds himself in the winners' circle after a long haul through the West Coast's boom-bust cycles. During the 1980s, he toiled in Chicago at Leo Burnett on Kellogg and cat-food brands and at Foote, Cone & Belding working on Coors. In 1992, he moved to San Francisco to Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, where he worked on the groundbreaking California Milk Processor Board's "Got Milk?" At BBDO's Los Angeles office, Mr. Hollerbach worked with then-President David Lubars.

But after it lost its crucial Apple Computer account, BBDO reorganized and eventually relocated lead creatives to San Francisco in time for the dot-com boom. But even then, BBDO West's growth was modest, given conflicts with other BBDO offices. Other clients of the 75-employee BBDO West include Pioneer Mobile Entertainment Division, Air New Zealand and the E&J Gallo Winery.

"His challenge is that there is not a lot of business to go around [on the West Coast] and a lot of good agencies chasing it," said Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO Worldwide. "If a national account comes up for grabs" it's likely to go to the larger BBDO offices, such as New York, Chicago or Atlanta, Mr. Robertson said. Still, Mr. Hollerbach's chance on the Lottery should pay out well for the shop as a "significant and highly visible piece of business for us," Mr. Robertson said. That's important, given, in discussing the win, Lottery Marketing Director Jim Hasegawa said key factors in the decision included strategy, media efficiency and "the lowest markup rates." Mr. Hollerbach, however, said he expects the account to be profitable.

"I live on the edge every day," he said, referring especially to predilection to sailboat racing and mountain biking. And he joins other BBDO workers in chipping in a dollar to the twice-weekly office Lottery pool. "We're feeling lucky," he said.


Name: Tom Hollerbach

Age: 45

Now: President-CEO, BBDO West

Who: Born in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Mr. Hollerbach paid his way through college by working at a Parke-Davis drug factory, graduating with a master's in advertising from Michigan State. An avid sailor, he was on a boat that raced against Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison and won.

Challenge: To get more Lottery tickets sold, to make money on the account and to expand the branch office of BBDO in the tight West Coast market.

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