The North Carolina lottery hired a new ad agency Tuesday to promote its games — now less than six weeks from the start — after the agency that originally won the job refused to put up a $500,000 bond to ensure its vendors were paid.
The firm Wray Ward Laseter of Charlotte takes over a three-year contract to lead the lottery's projected $8 million a year advertising campaign. Howard Merrell & Partners of Raleigh, the top bidder last week, quit a few days after winning the contract Feb. 14.
Wray Ward also offered creative ads to highlight both the lottery and its education benefits, lottery executive director Tom Shaheen said.
"They really knocked the ball out of the park," commission chairman Charles Sanders said after his board approved the new contract during a conference call.
Wray Ward, whose client list includes the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, Cheerwine and Rack Room Shoes, will get an average yearly payment equal to 11 percent of the annual advertising budget. In the first year, the company will get 12 percent — or $960,000 if the lottery spends $8 million in advertising as expected. The average percentage is slightly more than Howard Merrell's final offer.
Wray Ward has agreed to pay the bond, but still must sign the contract, Shaheen said.
Scratch-off games are projected to begin March 30 and are expected to be followed by the multistate Powerball numbers game May 30.
The company will have to meet stringent guidelines laid out in state law as part of the bill that created the lottery. The primary purpose of the ads can't be to induce people to play the games and also can't depict the lottery as a way to resolve economic or personal problems. The spots can't use cartoon figures and must mention the odds of winning.
The commission Tuesday also approved a green and yellow logo featuring an outline of the state, along with graphics of the mountains and a lighthouse.
A proposed logo unveiled last week was immediately withdrawn because it contained copyrighted clip art.