Comedian directs and acts in a new series of ads promoting super-sized payoffs.
Longtime Conan O’Brien sidekick Andy Richter recently stepped behind the camera to direct a series of ads for the Illinois Lottery. Produced by STORY for Downtown Partners Chicago, the ads are sequels to an earlier group of spots that Richter both directed and starred in as Gil Mitchell, an eccentric and elegantly coifed newsman tasked with informing Illinoisans about huge lottery jackpots.
In the new spots, Richter returns as Gil for more goofy hijinks. In one, he compares the Lottery’s “Super Jackpot” to an oversized toaster. In another, he conducts an “Eye on the Sky” simulation with a toy helicopter and Bronx cheer-style sound effects. Chicago Blackhawks star forward Patrick Sharp joins Richter in two spots, one centering on a one-sided beard-growing competition.
The scripts for the ads were written by Downtown Partners creative director Dan Consiglio, who then worked with Richter to hone the comedy. “Andy found the tone of the character really quickly,” Consiglio recalls. “It’s the nature of he business that he works in to pull together material really quickly, and that benefitted this process. He nailed the gags so fast.”
Richter compared crafting humor for the ads’ 15-second format to writing jokes for Twitter. “We really only had 12 seconds and had to pack our ideas into that brief time,” he recalls. “It’s similar to creating comedy bits for Conan. You work within the constraints and make it as funny as you can. So much of it is timing.”
Richter began directing commercials through STORY a couple of years ago, scheduling advertising assignments around his commitments to Conan. For the comedian, who as a young man worked in commercials as a Chicago-area production assistant, directing ads has become a second love. “I really enjoy working back in Chicago,” he says. “There were people on the production whom I’d worked with 25 years ago.”
Illinois Lottery’s Gil Mitchell campaign has been extremely popular and has done a great job in drawing attention to the game’s giant jackpots. Richter doesn’t know what the future holds for his newsman alter-ego, but he is enjoying the ride. “They’re a little odd,” he says of the ads, “but they do stand out.”
Consiglio agrees, noting that it’s been an enjoyable campaign all around. “STORY’s openness and attention to detail was very helpful,” he says. “That, and Andy’s down-to-earth, Midwestern attitude, made it easy and fun. That’s how it should be.”
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Titles: More Coffee, Gil’s Chair, Flying Car, Toaster, Chopper, Playoff Beard, Gear
Client: Illinois Lottery
Agency: Downtown Partners Chicago. Dan Consiglio, Creative Director/Copywriter.
Production: STORY. Andy Richter, Director; Mark Androw and Cliff Grant, Executive Producers.
Editorial: Optimus, Chicago. Randy Palmer, editor; Brian Hraster, producer.