March 20, 2013

Bill Nemitz: 'Kwikie' becomes late scratch

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

"They loved it," Reid said. "They thought it was provocative, exciting. And they thought it was about time the lottery stopped being so boring."

Next, Reid floated the concept with a larger group of 25 to 30 top lottery dealers.

"Same reaction," he said.

Finally, earlier this month, the lottery sent out promotional packets to all of its 1,300 retailers alerting them that the Instant Game tickets would soon be rebranded as "Kwikies."

"That's when I knew I was going down a bad path," said Reid. "We got at least 20 or 30 fairly emotional responses."

Such as?

"Really bad . . . dangerous . . . our female clerks are going to be concerned . . . et cetera . . . et cetera . . . et cetera . . ."

Then came the media coverage -- complete with store owners aghast at the thought of asking their customers, "Would you like a Kwikie with your six-pack?" (Or conversely, lecherous male customers growling, "Gimme a pack of Marlboros, honey. And while you're at it, toss in a Kwikie.")

Monday morning, after a long weekend of second-guessing himself, Reid called his boss, Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services Sawin Millett. "I said my mea culpa and told him, 'We're not going to do this,' " he said.

Looking back, Reid sees a couple of blind spots.

One was that crazy misspelling: "If you're trying to divert people from going to a bad place, that should be a warning sign. Because they will go there."

Another was the disconnect between the "Kwikie" as seen on television and a "Kwikie" as heard down at the local 7-11.

"We were trying to steer people toward the fun, lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek area," Reid said. "But when taken out of that context . . . it could be negative."

Regardless, Reid is happy to report that the cost to the state was minimal.

The biggest outlay -- a television ad that was ready for broadcast -- can be salvaged with a new voice-over once a new name is selected. (You didn't hear it here, but that list of public nominees does include "Zumba Cash.")

Meaning that for all the hoopla and hand-wringing, no one in Maine actually bought a Kwikie?

"That is correct," replied Reid. "Or if they did, it wasn't from me."

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

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