Powerball’s advertising campaign leaves some feeling cold

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The campaign, which has drawn Internet ire, uses iconic, historic images – all of which represent untold sacrifice and hard work – to sell the dream of winning the lottery.

At a construction site in Santa Monica, several enormous posters on the wall exhibit the single-word slogan “Believe.” Between those posters are images of Neil Armstrong on the moon, women marching for voting rights, and people celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. The idea is that, without belief, none of these incredible things would have been accomplished.


But some object to the comparison. When Ellen Neu thinks of the Berlin Wall, she doesn’t feel like a million dollars. “I couldn’t talk about it for years, because it always made me cry,” Neu said.

Neu lives in Torrance, where she is president of the German-American League of Los Angeles. She was in East Berlin when the wall came down, and said that at the time, she couldn’t believe the news. “The tears are running, because I did not expect in my lifetime that, that was going to happen,” Neu said.

Her disbelief seems at odds with the campaign’s message. A spokesperson for the lottery said it used the photographs to evoke the idea that dreams can come true. “It wasn’t our intention to compare these moments – the Berlin Wall or women’s suffrage – to any of the lottery’s products. It was more of the idea of believing in something big,” said Elias Dominguez, California Lottery Commission spokesman.

“That’s one of the big things with lottery players,” he said. “They dream of winning the lottery, and really the comparison is nothing more than that.”

Dominguez said that while he has seen some backlash against the campaign, it hasn’t been huge. He said the campaign, which began in late March, will probably run for at least another month.

Neu said she hadn’t been aware that pictures of the Berlin Wall had been used to promote the Powerball, but she said that the subject was still a painful reminder for many. “To take advantage of that kind of feeling for profit is not the best thing in town,” she said.