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Spain’s massive “El Gordo” Christmas lottery unveils 2014 TV commercials

Series of tear-jerker spots breaks with last year's highly criticized ad featuring music stars

The main spot for this year’s Christmas lottery draw.

With 40 days to go before Spain holds its famous Christmas lottery, state gambling agency Selae has launched the television commercials for this year’s draw.

Traditionally held on December 22, the Lotería de Navidad – popularly known as El Gordo (the Fat One) – will hand out €2.24 billion if all tickets get sold, making it the world’s biggest lottery in terms of total prize payout.

Dating back to the 19th century, the Fat One is a cultural institution in Spain, where people stand in line for hours at certain sales points considered to be “lucky,” and tickets get sold months in advance.

The state agency paid advertising firm Leo Burnett €840,000 to produce this year’s series of spots, said Selae president Inmaculada García Martínez.

Under the slogan “El mayor premio es compartirlo” (The best prize is sharing it), each commercial tells a short and moving story about ordinary people and how the lottery touches their lives, often indirectly.

The main story features a man who forgot to buy his usual lottery ticket from his local bar, only to have that number win the top prize that year – and what happens when he goes down for a cup of coffee, practically in tears.

Other spots, which are loosely connected to the bar story, follow a woman who finds a folder containing the things her deceased parents promised to do if they ever won the lottery, and a couple who decides to get married all over again after failing to win, among others.

Director Santiago Zannou selected locations in several Madrid neighborhoods, including Villaverde and El Pilar, to film the ads.

“Because it was a commercial related to Christmas, the movie had to have some kind elements; that’s why we threw in the snow, to make the neighborhoods a little less gritty and introduce a bit of beauty,” he explained.

We needed a song that was not too well-known in our country, because emotions were already contained within our characters”

Santiago Zannou, spot director

Juan García Escudero, creative director at Leo Burnett, said they knew the focus had to be on the word “sharing.”

“The lottery is won by work colleagues, by people you see down at the corner bar, by relatives. We are all participating, really,” he said. Hence the decision to make this year’s slogan “The best prize is sharing it.”

This year’s approach is significantly different from last year’s lottery commercial, which featured Spanish singers such as Montserrat Caballé, Raphael and David Bustamante performing a Christmas song.

This year, the soundtrack is Glacier by James Vincent McMorrow, an Irish singer-songwriter.

“Juan knows a lot about music,” said Zannou. “We needed a song that was not too well-known in our country, because emotions were already contained within our characters. We wanted a good song to stick in at the last moment, when the actors have already pulled on our heartstrings and a tear is starting to roll down your cheek.”