Spin those balls – Why Camelot must think we are idiots


I buy a national lottery ticket by direct debit every week.

There. I’ve admitted it.

And as so many people unkindly label the lottery ‘a tax on the stupid’ perhaps I deserve to be treated like an idiot. But the Camelot’s spin masters are testing my idiocy to the limits with their latest email announcing ‘Exciting changes coming to Lotto’.

If you are far too sensible to play the lottery, allow me to explain these ‘exciting’ changes.

Currently, to win the jackpot one has to match the six numbers on your ticket with six balls drawn from 49. The probability of doing that is something like one in 14 million (one in 13,983,816 to be precise).

From October, however, they’ll be adding ten new numbers to the draw.

And the chances of winning the jackpot now is more than one in 45 million. (45,057,474).

So it could be you, but it’s highly unlikely.

How has Camelot got away with this?

It’s worth remembering this is the same outfit that doubled the price of a ticket overnight with barely a ripple in the media. So they have a track record in chutzpah.

But the email I received was astonishing in its audacity.

Ignoring for one moment the repeated misapplication of the most abused word in marketing (‘exciting’ – used three times here) the body copy of the email stretches credulity to the limit.

Among the bullet points are two classics of the worst kind of consumer-insulting spin.

The first tells no doubt excited readers that there will be:

Exciting jackpots! Bigger rolling jackpots means there’s more to play for from October.”

Yes, there will be more rollovers – simply because the chances of winning the jackpot will be so low the top prize will be unclaimed for weeks.

The most egregious piece of misdirection has to be the following line:

“Extra numbers to choose from”

Yes. Camelot is trying to tell gullible players the introduction of ten new numbers – that decrease their chance of winning by a factor of three – is good news.

I suppose if your great uncle Pete was born on the 53rd of January maybe you will welcome this additional ‘choice’. But otherwise I can see little benefit to players.

No doubt those cheeky chappies in Lottery HQ are rubbing their hands in glee at having pulled another fast one on their customers.

But as a marketer and communications consultant I feel it brings shame on our profession.

I hope that when the licence for the National Lottery comes round again, Camelot’s number will be up.

Image (c) Shutterstock / Lipskiy