Our entry into the AQR Prosper Riley-Smith Qualitative Excellence Awards 2015 is not the story of a big, flagship project, meticulously planned and executed, and delivered with pomp and ceremony. Rather, it’s the story of real-life, everyday qualitative research. Pragmatic, responsive and highly effective, even under considerable time pressure. It wasn’t big, but it was clever, and it delivered the results Camelot needed.

Lotto turned 21 in November. Doesn’t time fly? But as the game has matured, the cut-through from its advertising has waned. Two decades on, communications about a rollover jackpot or a lastminute prompt to buy a ticket just doesn’t have the same impact as it did back in 1994.

In light of this, Camelot wanted to develop a new kind of advertising campaign for Lotto, to make people sit up and pay attention — a campaign that would bring the game back into public consciousness and to make it part of the social discourse again. It needed to meet three key objectives:

  • Strong emotional engagement
  • Fame creation and talkability
  • Restore and build ‘win belief’

And, to boot, this new brand campaign needed to be embedded quickly before the launch of the updated Lotto game in October. The ad agency AMV BBDO was on the case, but the clock was ticking, and research timelines were under ever more pressure…

An agile and iterative approach

The first creative ideas varied widely — from one that was safe, familiar and evoked the joy of playing Lotto, to one that was much more radical and really pushed the boundaries. The key challenge was to design an approach that gave the more radical creative idea an equal chance; we couldn’t rely on a traditional creative development research approach. It also needed to be flexible enough to be both iterative — incorporating two rounds of research and bringing key stakeholders along with it — and speedy, completed within a month.

This meant looking at every aspect of the research design with fresh eyes:

To pre-sensitise or not to pre-sensitise?
A question that has exercised researchers for years. Convention says to avoid. We said to embrace.

Why use one method when two is better?
Convention says creative development = groups. We said a blended approach = best of both worlds.

Rigorous rotation or get to the point?
With numerous scripts, wear-out was a real risk. Convention says equal exposure. We said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Even reporting got the ‘agile’ treatment
We didn’t have the time for pretty PowerPoint. We designed a feedback template that we used for both waves — and that was short, sweet and very much to the point.

The results? They speak for themselves

We emerged with a clear recommendation to pursue the ‘radical’ route, supported by a powerful set of optimisations, which contributed significantly to the success of the recent Lotto #PleaseNotThem campaign.

The key insights centred on how best to utilise the celebrities involved, as the creative idea would live or die based on which celebrities were chosen. They had to be well known and regarded with ‘affectionate irritation’ i.e. a degree warmer than ‘love to hate’ and with the ability to laugh at themselves. They also had to be seen in a consistent way by everyone.

Evaluating the ‘test’ celebs and their Lotto winning ‘dreams’ revealed a complex combination of criteria, which we focused on simplifying into an easy-to-use checklist for client and agency. This helped them make the big decision to cast Katie Price, Piers Morgan and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen for the first wave of ads.

It was the tweaks we made to the traditional approach to communications research that allowed us to do this. Having a larger number of shorter sessions, rather than relying on fewer longer ones, meant that each session was not expected to ‘answer’ all the questions. This gave us more freedom to learn and adapt as we went, with the full client and ad agency teams alongside us, feeding into the process.

As a result, measures have shown that there is renewed engagement with Lotto, higher levels of fame and talkability for the brand via social media, and the campaign has also had a positive effect on win belief.

Hitting the jackpot with this radical campaign idea also laid a strong foundation for the recent changes to Lotto, which launched in October. Perceptions of the game have been transformed — with a record week of sales in January as a result of a £66m Lotto jackpot draw that gripped the nation — and Camelot is already building on this success with its new set of ads (the Noel Edmonds spot even features Acacia’s very own Jo Burke in a supporting role). The only question is, who will be next? Well, whoever it is, you can be sure that we’ll all be thinking #PleaseNotThem.