The advertising agency for the state lottery is in hot water for asking radio stations running lottery ads to donate gifts to be used as incentives for increasing ticket sales. Lottery officials say the solicitation was a mistake caused by the misinterpretation by two agency ad-time buyers of an off-the-cuff comment by Lottery Secretary Rebecca Paul.
Mrs. Paul said she asked officials of Bozell, Diaz & Ellis of Tampa earlier this month to investigate whether the lottery, with its huge advertising budget, was eligible for gifts, as other high-volume advertisers are.
By the end of this year, the lottery will have spent nearly $60-million on television, newspaper and radio advertising.
Providing gifts to big advertisers is fairly common, radio executives said. But both parties understand that when an advertising contract is signed, and that gifts aren't requested retroactively. Since January 1988, when lottery tickets went on sale, the lottery had never asked for gifts.
Radio station executives in Palm Beach County and the Florida Panhandle started getting what some called heavy-handed calls last week from the ad agency.
Bozell employees asked for gifts worth 2 percent to 3 percent of a station's lottery advertising revenue since the lottery started. The gifts were to be used as incentives for lottery retailers to increase ticket sales, agency employees said.
Other lotteries, such as those in California, Ohio and Illinois, use gifts from their media outlets as dealer bonuses but never solicit for them, spokesmen said.
The ad agency has been told to call everyone back and apologize.
"I was unaware that our advertising agency had done some of these things _ but they're not doing it now," Mrs. Paul said.