Who: Advertising Standards Authority
When: 3 September 2014
Law stated as at: 7 October 2014
This ASA adjudication related to a complaint about a competition on the www.maydaymaths.com website.
The webpage stated:
“Picture & Joke Competition. To be in with a chance of winning, get your creative head on and make us a picture! Your picture can be of anything you want, but it should have a maths or ConquerMaths theme somewhere. … Your entry must be your own work … we’ll be checking! If you’re not much of an artist, why not send us your funniest maths joke … You’ll stand the same chance of winning a prize … All entries will be posted on this site and we’ll be taking votes to decide the winner. Entry is free so get your thinking hat on and send us your entries!“.
Then, further down the page, it stated:
“CURRENT ENTRIES & VOTING … Rate your favourites to help choose a winner! Any entries where voting fraud is detected will be immediately disqualified”.”
The complaint alleged it was not clear from the webpage that:
(a) the competition was actually to be decided by a judge rather than on the public votes; and
(b) votes from outside of the UK, and multiple votes from the same IP address, would not be counted in reaching a decision.
The ASA upheld these complaints.
Terms and conditions contradicted other content
Although the terms and conditions stated: “Votes are used to assist judges in choosing a winner and do not automatically signify standing within the competition“, this was not sufficient to overrule the impression given by the statement that “… we’ll be taking votes to decide the winner“.
In addition the ASA held that the phrase: “Any entries where voting fraud is detected will be immediately disqualified” probably reinforced the view that the competition was won by the party with the most public votes and “contradicted”, rather than “clarified”, the impression given elsewhere about the role of voting. Therefore the manner in which the winner would be chosen was not made sufficiently clear and the CAP Code had been breached.
No information provided on which votes might be discounted
In relation to the discounting of votes, although the rules said that “Voters are checked using a variety of criteria. Anyone suspected of cheating will be immediately disqualified.” the ASA could find no indication in the webpage or the promotion terms and conditions either that votes might be discounted or on what grounds this might occur.
In reality it seemed that the promoter had not allowed multiple votes from the same household and had possibly disregarded votes from outside the UK.
“Same household” restrictions were included but only in the context of entries into the competition, not voting. There was also no definition of “household” which the promoter decided should be determined by IP address.
Given all this confusion, it is perhaps hardly surprising that the ASA found the promotion in breach by failing to communicate significant conditions to the competition around voting
Why this matters:
This ASA adjudication shows the important of getting all the mechanics of prize promotions right and of full transparency in all promotional material as to how the various elements of the promotion work.
As stated in CAP guidance on prize promotions, “promoters should state all rules, entry instructions, dates or deadlines and factors likely to influence a consumer’s understanding of the promotion and ensure their marketing communications explain these accurately, unambiguously and completely“.
It is also not sufficient to include key rules only in the terms and conditions of the prize promotion if the ad itself gives a conflicting impression.