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Pennsylvania Lottery’s resurrection of Gus costs $400K, causes controversy

Controversy surrounds the Pennsylvania Lottery’s resurrection of its popular animatronic salesman, Gus, which comes at a cost of just shy of $400,000.

The return of Gus, the state’s second most-famous groundhog, as the Pennsylvania Lottery’s spokesman has not come without cost and bit of controversy.

The advertising costs associated with it are projected to be $397,575.

That amount includes the teaser campaign that led up to his return that the lottery cooked up with its advertising contractor Marc USA of Pittsburgh, as well as re-edits of old Gus ads to insert newer lottery products.

It also includes the $68,700 associated with transforming Gus from an animatronic puppet to a computer-generated character.

The new version of Gus will begin appearing in lottery advertisements in January, said lottery spokesman Gary Miller. The lottery doesn’t have a photo of the madeover Gus to share at this time.

The decision to give Gus a makeover is the result of technological advances that have occurred since he first debuted as the lottery’s mascot in 2004, he said.

“Using [computer-generated imagery] will enable Gus to do new things in different environments that simply weren’t possible before,” Miller said. “Many major brands have adopted CGI technology to depict mascots including the Geico Gecko, Mr. Peanut, the Pillsbury Doughboy and many others.”

However, Gus’ new appearance is drawing opposition.

Comments are posted on a “Save Gus the Groundhog” Facebook page that appears to have first been created when the marmot disappeared. A Change.org petition has also been started to save the animatronic puppet that appeared in more than 50 TV and print lottery advertisements as well as the jobs of those who helped create the ads featuring it.

The petition says, “Gus is a icon and recreating him as a CG character is a disrespect to his creators, fans and the great people of Pennsylvania.”

Rick Lazzarini, who had a hand in Gus’ creation, is among those who are voicing opposition to the switch to a computer-generated character.

“Unfortunately, the PA Lottery and Ad Agency MARC USA are sullying that institution by bringing back a soulless, computer-generated imitation of Gus. What the people of Pennsylvania missed was the endearing puppet that took a team of talented puppeteers to bring to life, interacting with the humans in the ads,” Lazzarini said.

“Nobody likes CGI characters, unless they are monsters or robots. Did anyone like it when they switched Yoda from a beautifully crafted and performed puppet to a pale CGI version? Nope.”

Miller said the lottery “strives to employ Pennsylvanians in our advertising production” and the switch to a computer-generated character should have minimal impact on Pennsylvania jobs.

Further, he said the lottery’s advertising budget for the year is $44 million “so the specific costs related to bringing back Gus represents only a very small percentage of the overall budget.”

Despite the controversy surrounding Gus’ makeover, Miller said there’s no turning back now. Production of the commercials featuring the computer-generated version of Gus have already begun, Miller said. Or to put it in his words, “

Pennsylvania Lottery’s resurrection of Gus costs $400K, causes controversy Controversy surrounds the Pennsylvania Lottery’s resurrection of its popular animatronic salesman, Gus, which comes at a