Who: Walkers Snacks Ltd (Walkers) and the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA)
When: 17 August 2016
Law stated as at: 5 September 2016
Walkers ran a promotion named “Spell & Go”, where participants had to try to spell out the name of destinations for a chance to win one of 20,000 holidays. The ads for the promotion featured on Walkers’ website, Twitter account, Facebook page, packets of crisps and in a TV ad. The promotion worked by participants taking codes from packets of crisps or other promotional mechanics and entering them into a website to gain letters to help them spell out destinations. A completed destination name would result in winning a holiday.
112 people complained to the ASA:
1. some believed that certain letters needed to spell out the destinations were being withheld (and therefore making certain prizes impossible to win); and
2. others reported problems with the promotional codes on packets of crisps and the website’s acceptance of such codes.
This led to the questions of (i) whether the promotion was being conducted equitably and fairly and (ii) whether the promoter was dealing fairly and honourably.
Walkers explained that each destination contained at least one ‘Type 1’ letter, being C, D and K. There were just enough Type 1 letters, in addition to the other required letters (‘Type 2’ letters), in circulation for 20,000 holidays to be won. Walkers explained that the ‘Random Swap’ function allowed participants to swap up to five letters that they had collected with random Type 2 letters.
In terms of complaints in relation to the promotional codes, Walkers explained that various “robust” measures were in place to ensure the accuracy of the printed codes and all complaints received by Walkers had been resolved. In addition, the percentage of complaints received at the time that they responded to the ASA related to 0.0005% of the packets printed.
– The ASA was satisfied that Type 1 letters were not being withheld, but as there were only 20,000 available, they were simply in limited circulation.However, in terms of the Random Swap mechanism, the ASA noted that the pool only consisted of Type 2 letters. The terms and conditions for the website, on the other hand, stated that
“ … a new letter is selected at random from a ‘pool’ of letters that are stored in a database … This swap is instant and all letters are treated equally” (our emphasis).The ASA felt that consumers would understand the pool to contain both Type 1 and Type 2 letters. Therefore, the ASA stated that “while we considered it unlikely that the existence of the Random Swaps mechanism would in itself influence a consumer’s initial decision to participate in the promotion, we considered it likely that it would influence their decision to continue to purchase promotional packs of crisps, based on their understanding that when swapping a Type 2 letter it was possible to receive a Type 1 letter… [and] the omission… was misleading and likely to cause unnecessary disappointment to consumers“.
– In respect of other issues raised, the ASA noted the variety of complaints from consumers, but held that Walkers had sufficient checks in place.
Why this matters:
Although it is comparatively rare for a promotion to have a secondary mechanic (in this case, the Random Swap function), the decision highlights the importance of always ensuring that all significant conditions are made clear to consumers. In this case, the website advertising the Random Swap should have made it clear to consumers that only Type 2 letters were available in the pool of available letters.
The case also highlights the importance of having sufficient checks and measures when operating a promotion that uses promotional codes. In this case, despite the volume of complaints, Walkers were able to provide a strong body of evidence to show that the promotional codes were being printed and processed carefully.