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Promotional marketing: Prize draws in social media

Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Social media is a great way for marketers to reach out to consumers in an informal and spontaneous way and with the development of different social media platforms there are more and more ways to host sales promotions.

If you are running a promotion, you are a promoter: the rules in Section 8: Sales promotions apply to sales promotions wherever they appear and whoever they are run by.  Regardless of the platform: promotions must be run fairly and marketing communications for the promotion must not mislead.  Key things to remember are:

• Include key information about the promotion in the initial ad
• Have a signpost to the full terms and conditions
• Include all the entrants in the draw who met the entry requirements
• Pick prize draw winners at random
• Award the prize

Include key information about the promotion in the initial ad

The initial marketing communication should include the information that the consumer needs to make an informed decision as to whether to participate in the promotion. These significant conditions will normally include the closing date, how to enter and any restrictions on entry.

For some straight forward prize draws it may well be possible to include all the significant conditions even in a short space such as Twitter for example: “Enter our prize draw on our website to win a [briefly describe prize] by 1pm DD.MM.YY over 18s only see T&Cs [shortened hyperlink]”.  Alternatively, information could be provided in two tweets in quick succession using the “1/2 …” “2/2 … ” format.

Rule 8.18 provides an exemption so if the initial ad is severely restricted by time or space it must include as much information about significant conditions as practicable (Rule 8.18). In such online marketing communications it may be considered sufficient to have significant conditions of entry one click away from the social media post which advertises the promotion.  Facebook posts are unlikely to be considered to be limited by space.

If the mechanic of the platform means there is no record of the message or post then promoters might like to consider more general trailer copy such as “go to our website for all our prize draws and special offers”.

Have a signpost to the full terms and conditions

As well as the significant conditions, the participant must be able to access the full terms and conditions before they enter the promotion. This can be done via a sign post to further information or hyperlink.

Particular care should be taken to ensure terms and conditions are easily accessible when consumers can enter the promotion by sharing or responding to a post instantly.

The tweet "To celebrate #petdentalcare month we are giving away 10 goodie bags filled full of dental treats. Follow and RT to win! #competition" was found to breach the Code because it failed to include significant terms and conditions or indeed have any terms and conditions at all (Pet Plan Ltd, 26 September 2012).

The Code sets out information that is likely to be necessary to include in the full terms and conditions.  For example, the full terms and conditions should state how and when information about winners and results will be made available.

If this information is not announced then promoters must make available on request the name and county of major prize winners. The ASA has ruled that “name” means “full name” (Walkers Snacks Ltd 28 August 2013, Superdrug Stores Ltd 8 January 2014).

For more information please see 'Promotional marketing: Terms and conditions'.

Include all the entrants in the draw who met the entry requirements

Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.  There are a number of rules which go into more detail but a key point to note is that promoters must be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.

In practical terms this means ensuring that everyone who enters a prize draw is put into the pot.  Promoters running promotions where entry is based on sharing a post (for example, “Retweet to win”, “like to win”) or by using a hashtag will need to be able to show they had a reliable method to collect all the entries. Although the ASA is yet to rule on this issue, CAP understands there are concerns regarding available methods of collecting data using this type of medium, to ensure the inclusion of all valid entrants to a prize draw.

Promoters need to take care that appropriate measures are in place to ensure that the structure, or mechanic, of their promotion is not open to abuse.  Allowing abuse is likely to cause consumers who have participated fairly to be disadvantaged.  For more information see 'Promotional marketing: Abuse'.

Pick prize draw winners at random

Promoters need to be able to show that the winner was selected at random.  This can be done by using a computer process that produces verifiably random results, by an independent person, or under the supervision of an independent person.

Picking names out of a hat is fine as long as someone unconnected with the promotion is there to ensure that it’s done fairly.  For more information please see 'Promotional marketing: Independent judges and observers'.

Award the prize

If you run a promotion offering a prize it must be awarded.  If the original prize is unavailable, a reasonable equivalent must be offered and there can be no cost to claim the prize.  Promoters must take adequate steps to alert winners to the fact they have won.

The ASA has ruled that ringing a winner once, is not sufficient (Walkers Snacks Ltd 28 August 2013).  In social media, announcing the winner once (for example as a public tweet, post, message or responding on a comments feed) is unlikely to be sufficient. For more information please see 'Promotional marketing: Prize winners'. 

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