Storytelling 101: New Zealand Lottery

This is a new, on-going series that will analyze the good and bad of storytelling in today’s digital world, using examples of big-brands as they switch their strategies from telling to engaging.

In 2010, the New Zealand Lottery (through their agency DDB), launched a very interesting campaign around a sailor, his loyal dog, and a winning Powerball ticket.

(click on the image above to launch the video at YouTube)

The gist of the story is simple:

  • Man on a sailboat, with his dog Wilson, discovers his lottery ticket is the Powerball winner
  • Heading home, the sailboat encounters a squall and the winning ticket is blown overboard
  • Wilson jumps in to retrieve it and is lost in the storm
  • Through trial and tribulation with the ticket in his mouth, Wilson returns to his owner
  • Just before getting to his owner, he meets a homeless man who gives him half a sandwich
  • When Wilson finally gets home, he discovers he’s been replaced…by a cat
  • Wilson returns to the homeless man and bequeaths to him the ticket

So what makes this such an excellent example of storytelling?

First, it’s all about narrative. In short, it’s a story. There are characters, a conflict, and a resolution. It creates an emotional connection between the audience and the dog.

Second, this isn’t about the lottery itself. It’s about loyalty and other fundamental aspects of human (or non-human) character.

Third, it doesn’t exist by itself. This was the lead campaign that spawned a number of subsequent shorter versions. Furthermore, the Powerball campaign continues the winning story with six spots showing you how things turned out after that. What that means is that the New Zealand lottery can capitalize on the emotional connection they had created with the first spot.

Fourth, the specifics of the ad were designed around the target audience. It wasn’t random to use a dog (or even a cat):

“New Zealand’s pet ownership statistics are one of the highest in the world. We know that a third of New Zealanders own a dog, and that the majority of dog owners acknowledge that they treat their pet as a member of their family*, so this new campaign featuring a wire haired fox terrier is sure to resonate with many Lotto players,” says NZ Lotteries Chief Executive, Todd McLeay. “Cat owners don’t miss out either, as the new campaign also features a memorable cameo by a pedigree kitty,” he adds.

From a storytelling perspective, DDB and the New Zealand lottery hit a home run by approaching their marketing from a narrative perspective. But where they really went the extra mile was by continuing to build off the storyline through the “what happens next” spots. And even 3 years later, there are still images from the campaign on their website:

(In the lower-right corner, there is Wilson, ticket in mouth.)

Looking back on a successful, integrated, and highly-engaging campaign, what grade should we give it? Probably a B+ or A- based on just what’s available. I am unclear how well they integrated social media or mobile into the delivery of the story other than making sure content was available through both those channels. Perhaps, with a little time machine jaunt, we might find that DDB created an engaging “world” around Wilson and this narrative, one in which the audience was able to interact, share their own pet loyalty stories, even upload video directly from their mobile devices. In that case, DDB would be, like the same “Lost Dog” posters they posted prior to the launch of the campaign, the poster-child for how to do storytelling right.

- Jason Thibeault, Sr. Director, Marketing Strategy. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @_jasonthibeault.

Share this post:
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • RSS

Leave a Reply