The future of the Pennsylvania Lottery is in play these days, with the governor pushing ahead with plans to privatize the program.
What that could mean for the future of the advertising account now held by Station Square agency Marc USA isn't clear. But it might not foretell a long career for the lottery's newest spokeswoman, a cheerful character named Penny.
Penny's predecessor had a good run. Gus the Groundhog spent eight years pitching games, until being retired last year. "That's an eternity in advertising," noted Gary Miller, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania Lottery.
While Gus claimed to be Pennsylvania's second most famous groundhog, the character of Penny seems more likely to be mistaken for fast-food mascot Wendy. Played by an actress with "coppery" tresses and wardrobe that always features a touch of "Lottery green," the new spokeswoman who began showing up on TV in the past few months has a different assignment than her animatronic predecessor, said Mr. Miller.
"Gus was more of a salesman," he said. "Penny is here to remind people of Lottery's mission." The lottery designates proceeds to programs serving older adults.
In one spot, Penny tells a grandson who bought lottery tickets that he helped his grandmother get a hot meal. In another, she tells a man at a drugstore that he won his blood pressure medication thanks to those who play the lottery. "Every time you play, an older Pennsylvanian wins," Penny proclaims.
Mr. Miller noted that the lottery, which had an advertising budget of $37 million in the most recent fiscal year, has other marketing campaigns in place to promote different games, in addition to the Penny spots.
And, just as Penny does in her ads, he pointed out, "The lottery generated a record $1 billion to support vital services for older Pennsylvanians."
Marc USA created both Gus and Penny. Mr. Miller said a Pennsylvania-based actress plays Penny. He declined to share her name, saying the lottery would like to preserve some mystery around the character.
Gus, a takeoff on Pennsylvania's famed Punxsutawney Phil, began his spokes-hog career mainly promoting scratch-off instant games, although he later picked up some additional work. He was well-known enough that people still ask about him, especially around Groundhog's Day on Feb. 2, said Mr. Miller.
Teresa F. Lindeman: email@example.com or at 412-263-2018.