Part way through a popular “buy a bag of crisps to enter” promotion with prizes for predicting where it would rain, Walkers protected inundated systems by reducing maximum entries per day from two to one. A punter who had stocked up for 2 entries per day complained to the ASA. Omar Bucchioni reports.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: ASA and Walkers Snack Foods Ltd.
When: March 2011
Law stated as at: 31 March 2011
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a promotion on packets of Walkers crisps. In essence, the promotion was for entrants to win £10 if they could correctly predict where and when in the country it would rain. Individual entrants were permitted to enter up to twice a day.
The ASA understood that, once players had obtained a code from a promotional pack of crisps, they could enter the competition online by selecting a grid reference from a map of the UK, and choosing a three-hour period on a particular day when they believed it might rain in that area. The ASA noted that the competition had 21,271 grid spots available each day for the seven weeks the promotion ran, resulting in a total of 1.04m spots available for play during the whole competition.
A person who had purchased packets of crisps in order to enter the promotion twice a day and was later informed by the advertiser that the number of entries had been reduced to one per day per person, complained whether the promotion had been conducted fairly.
What Walkers had to say
Walkers Snack Food (Walkers) said that they based the original allowance of two plays per day on demand for previous Walkers promotions (although the mechanic of the Rainy Days promotion had not been used before).
It soon became clear that consumers were entering the promotion far more times than previously anticipated and would far exceed the supply of the available grid spots which were limited by the Met Office to ensure data accuracy. Given the limited number of spots and the high participation, Walkers decided to reduce the number of plays to once per day. They said that decision was made prior to the start of the TV and online campaign and before promotional packs reached full distribution at retail. In addition, they said that neither their advertising nor the promotional packs stated the number of plays permissible per day but referred to the T&Cs published on the website.
Walkers said that they believed they had conducted the promotion fairly for all participants since the T&Cs were communicated to all customers who had registered an account during the initial launch phase, and since the T&Cs on the website and various FAQs and other online text were also updated to reflect the change so that any new customers registering after that point would have been required to agree to the new terms (i.e. one play per day, per account).
What the ASA had to say
The promotion was not conducted fairly: Upheld
The ASA considered that the previous promotion which Walkers had considered in order to estimate the demand for the competition was not sufficiently similar to the mechanic of the Rainy Days promotion to be able to make a reasonable estimate of demand.
The ASA noted also that between the start of the promotion (12 September) and the date on which the conditions of play were changed (29 September), over 40,000 people had registered and taken part in the promotion.
The ASA therefore concluded that in altering the T&Cs, Walkers could cause unnecessary disappointment to participants who would be disappointed to find that their opportunity to participate in the promotion was reduced after the conditions were changed. Therefore the ASA concluded that the promotion had not been administered fairly and breached the Code – i.e. CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.2 (Sales promotions) and 8.23 (Prize promotions).
Why this matters:
A couple of points to take away from this adjudication:
1. promoters must make sure that any basis for an estimate of likely response to a promotion is closely similar to the actual promotion to be run; and.
2. changing promotion T&Cs during the course of a promotion will create risks of regulatory action and negative publicity.
The case is reported on the ASA website.