Are promotion marketers forgetting about the CAP Code rules on supervision of prize draws, judging of skill contests and other administrative aspects of promotions?
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: The Advertising Standards Authority
When: November 2003
The Advertising Standards Authority published a "Compliance report" on on-pack sales promotions. This reported on a survey conducted by the ASA between February and July 2003. During this period, a representative sample of 348 sales promotions appearing in supermarkets around the UK were collected and assessed under the "CAP" Code of British advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing ("the Code").
Taking out duplicates, 291 promotions were scrutinized. Of these, just 16 promotions (5.5%) were found to breach the Code, giving an overall compliance rate of 94.5%. Not a bad result, but the figures were not quite so impressive when it came to an assessment of the "back-end" or administrative aspect of 23 on-pack promotions.
The sort of Code requirements the ASA had in mind here were those obliging promoters to make available a list of major prize winners, ensure that an independent judge had been appointed to assess entries open to subjective interpretation, organise for an independent observer to supervise prize draws and make available on request independently audited statements to confirm that winning labels, tickets or numbers had been fairly and randomly distributed in promotion packs.
At the end of the assessment, a disappointing 26% of the promotions scrutinized were found to fall short. All these fell down because the promoters were not able to demonstrate that prize draws were conducted or instant win prizes distributed under the supervision of an independent observer, as is required by the Code.
Outside these administrative requirements, some of the other breaches found were as follows:
· the outside of the label did not state important terms and conditions of the promotion (i.e. the closing date for receipt of applications and that a payment and further purchases were necessary in order to receive the promotional product);
· the reverse of the label did not detail the promoter's full name and business address in any way that it could be retained by the consumer;
· a charity linked promotion breached clause 37.1c of the Code because the promoter had not specified exactly what would be gained by the named charity or stated the basis on which the contribution would be calculated; and
· saying "no purchase necessary" on the outside of the pack but giving no further details on the pack exterior on how to enter without paying. Another failing here was the lack of any explanation as to the nature of the prize.
Instant win problems
Amongst the instant win promotions scrutinized, two SMS-based promotions were problematic because they used phrases like "instant win prizes" and "win….instantly," yet participants did not know immediately or instantly if and what they had won. This was because the consumer had to text a code inside the wrapper to the promoter, who then sent a text message back confirming if they were a winner. This was not quick enough for the relevant part of the Code, namely clause 35.8. This states that participants in instant win promotions should get their winnings at once or should know immediately what they have won and how to claim without delay, unreasonable cost or administrative barriers.
A number of "instant win" promotions also fell down on the administrative front. Each promoter was asked to provide an independently audited statement to verify (as required by the Code) that all instant win tickets, tokens or numbers had been distributed or made available for distribution in a fair and random manner. In four cases, either no audited statement could be produced or the individual who had produced the statement was not considered to be truly independent of both the promoter and its agencies.
Why this matters:
Interestingly, none of the surveyed promotions which were found to be in breach had been the subject of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. In his comments on the survey's findings, Christopher Graham, Director General of the ASA said: "Promoters should not be inclined to excuse themselves from breaches of the CAP code because noone complains. The survey shows that whilst compliance within the sector is high, promoters need to work harder to ensure that they run their promotions in line with the CAP code's requirements, particularly when they are carrying out the administrative side of their promotions."
So the message from this survey is plain. There is work to be done within the UK promotion marketing industry on administrative aspects of promotions. Particular areas in need of care* are:-
the treatment of instant win prizes (there must be independent audited trails throughout these processes – in this context the promoter's own security department or the handling house processing the activity is not sufficient);
the operation of plain paper entry routes – these must be open for inspection and the chances of winning must be no less favourable than the on-pack route;
supervision of prize draws – these must be independently supervised and the handling house receiving entries will not be regarded as independent nor will any member of the promoter's staff;
judging of skill and judgement competitions – at least one judge must be totally independent of any party involved with the promotion. Depending on the context they should also be technically knowledgeable;
the availability of winners' lists – these must be available on request; and
the distribution of prizes – these must be distributed and procedures ought to be in place to deal with unclaimed prizes
*Acknowledgements here to the excellent article on this topic in the January 2004 issue of Promotions and Incentives.