The National Lottery seems to be on a losing streak these days. Last week, operator Camelot announced its third consecutive slide in annual ticket sales, which fell by 5.4% for the six-month period to September and sent profits plummeting by 27.3%.
All those unlucky numbers add up to an estimated [pounds sterling]35m loss for the government's good causes piggy bank.
Camelot, which narrowly retained, the Lottery last year after a bruising legal battle with the National Lottery Commission and rival Richard Branson's People's Lottery, says the wrangling over the contract is partly to blame. The company all but froze marketing spend for the Lottery amid the uncertainty but is now pressing ahead with a series of campaigns to break in the spring.
The Lottery has had its successes in recent years. The introduction of the Lim instant-win card last spring, for instance, fuelled a 6.8% jump in scratchcard sales.
But that hasn't stopped some from saying the Lottery has lost its touch with consumers. Critics say that with its hands tied by the regulator, Camelot has been too reserved in product development and advertising, and slow to develop its online potential.
In its defence, the Lottery claims sales are following the same inverse bell curve that other national lotteries have experienced. Consumers, they say, lose interest as the Lottery loses the lustre of the new,
But with new threats on the horizon, waning interest isn't the only thing the Lottery has to worry about. A liberalisation of gaming laws under the recommendations of the Budd Report could bring tough commercial competitors into the arena.
So is the National Lottery doomed to suffer the same slump as others have, or can it recapture the magic through clever in marketing and get back on its game?
For the odds, we asked Lowe Lintas new business director Jonathan Rigby, who headed Camelot's ad account at WCRS for two years, and Gala group sales and marketing director Richard Sowerby.
VITAL SIGNS National Lottery 1995 1996 Turnover [pounds sterling]1.1 bn [pounds sterling]5.2 bn Profit [pounds sterling]6 m [pounds sterling]51 m Good Causes [pounds sterling]317 m [pounds sterling]1.4 bn 1997 1998 Turnover [pounds sterling]4.7 bn [pounds sterling]5.5 bn Profit [pounds sterling]46 m [pounds sterling]59 m Good Causes [pounds sterling]1.2 bn [pounds sterling]1.5 bn 1999 2000 Turnover [pounds sterling]5.2 bn [pounds sterling]5 bn Profit [pounds sterling]48 m [pounds sterling]38 m Good Causes [pounds sterling]1.4 bn [pounds sterling]1.4 bn 2001 Turnover [pounds sterling]4.9 bn Profit [pounds sterling]33 m Good Causes …