PHILADELPHIA -- "Happy holidays, Rita!"
If you've lived in Pennsylvania during the past 20 years, chances are you recognize that line from the Pennsylvania Lottery's television commercial -- a nostalgically kitschy holiday tradition from Philly to Pittsburgh.
The ad, which first aired in 1992, shows a grandfatherly guy named Joe leaving his home on a snowy evening to deliver gifts of lotto tickets to his neighborhood newsstand and coffee shop. Meanwhile, festively attired carolers sing the lottery's version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" marketing its current games.
But this year, Joe, Rita and the gang aren't the same. The commercial has been redone, a shot-by-shot
match of the original, but in high definition and a widescreen format that looks better on today's sharper and broader televisions.
Spokesman Gary Miller said lottery officials wanted to make the spot look better without messing with tradition. The audio track from the original ad was retained and actors were cast to resemble their 1992 predecessors, he said.
"We really wanted to stay true to the original concept," Miller said. "Many (people) who have seen the commercial didn't realize we changed it."
Not to fear, traditionalists: The characters in the new commercial love the notion of giving and receiving lottery tickets for Christmas as much as they have for the past two decades.
The original advertisement did change a little over the years. The "12 Days" jingle was tweaked to reflect substitutions in the lottery's menu of chance -- "two instant games" became "two Lucky for Lifes" then "two Mega Millions" -- but the endearingly hokey elements that made it a favorite are still there.
Rita's coffee stand co-worker has the same overly enthusiastic "What a GREAT gift!" reaction to Joe's lottery ticket Christmas present, and a female singer in a blue cape still belts out a "five Cash FIIIIVES!" solo mid-carol.
The ad, titled "Snowfall," was shot in Philadelphia over two nights in October. The 1992 "Snowfall" was filmed in Pittsburgh, but the backdrops of townhouses trimmed in lights are comparable in both renditions.
Feedback: Miller said feedback has generally been positive. The new spot is posted on the lottery's YouTube channel, with commenters complimenting the decision to update a Christmas classic.
Connie Bloss worked on both "Snowfall" ads, in 2012 as the Pennsylvania Lottery's marketing director and in 1992 as an account executive with the ad agency that had the agency's account.
"Because the original spot is so beloved, we didn't want to upset anyone by going in a vastly different creative direction," she said. "We meticulously examined each frame to match the outfits, props, location and other small details. We really wanted to get it right."
Videos of the old "Snowfall" can also be found on YouTube and not surprisingly, some people are unhappy with the makeover.
"They're not showing this version anymore. I saw the newer-looking, more updated one today. End of an era," a commenter recently posted on a two-year-old YouTube posting of the 1992 commercial.
Another added, "What is there to update seriously? Why did they decide to mess with it?!"
Bloss said that in 1992, it wasn't anyone's intention to make an ad that would stick around for so long.
"We had hoped the original commercial could run for two or three seasons, as we are always looking for ways to stretch the Lottery's advertising budget," she said. "After it enjoyed a 20-year run, I believe we certainly got our money's worth."
"We hope to get another 20 years out of this one," Miller said.
"Snowfall" 2012: http://bit.ly/TJsxVu