When Club Libby Lu Inc ran a children’s essay comp they didn’t expect Moms to get in on the act and what’s more write fiction. But what did the rules say and did Club Libby have to eat humble pie? James Baker reports with acknowledgements to Steve Durchslag at Chicago law’s Winston & Strawn.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Club Libby Lu Inc, Priscilla Ceballos and her 6 year old daughter
When: January 2008
Where: Texas, USA
Law stated as at: 7 April 2008
Courtesy of a report in the monthly newsletter of the Promotion Marketing Association (www.pmalink.org) by Brian Heidelberger and Stephen Durchslag of the Chicago office of international law firm Winston & Strawn, we have gleaned that in 2007, Club Libby Lu Inc recently ran a competition described as the "Club Libby Lu Hannah Montana Rock Your Holidays Essay Contest" with the grand prize being a 'Hannah Montana makeover" and airfare for four to Albany NY to see a sold out Hannah Montana concert in January 2008.
To win the contest aimed at girls between six and thirteen years old, they had to "hear how you're going to ROCK someone else's holiday. Maybe it's Mom, your best friend, or maybe it's someone you don't even know! It's easy: just write (no more than 5 sentences) and send it to us. Maybe you are donating a coat (sorry sis) or maybe you are making breakfast in bed for your Mom (maybe next year Dad!), whatever it is tell us all about it".
A six year old from Texas submitted this entry:
"My daddy died this year in Iraq. I am going to give my mommy the Angel pendant that daddy put on mommy when she was having me. I had it in my jewellery box since that day. I love my mommy."
Reference to father's death an exaggeration
Then the promoter found out that the girl's father didn't die in Iraq and was happily living in Texas. Club Libby Lu Inc then retracted the prize. The girl's mother Priscilla Ceballos however was happy to admit to a Dallas TV station that "we never said this was a true story". Thinking like a lawyer she insisted she had read the fine print of the competition, and nothing required that the entry to be true.
The 'we' in her statement readily admitted that she at least helped her daughter write the entry. But Club Libby Lu Inc did not make much of this admission, realising that it would have been ridiculed for trying to take a six year old girls prize away because her mother helped and it was clear from the rules that nothing prevented the entry from being untrue.
Luckily the company had also been advised by lawyers and the competition rules had clauses giving them the right to disqualify individuals for several reasons including "tampering with the entry process or operations of the contest" and "acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner".
This allowed Club Libby Lu Inc to safely withdraw the prize without having to fear that the legally minded Mrs Ceballos from seeking her daughters prize through the courts.
Why this matters:
It is important when creating these competitions to think like a lawyer, or better yet get an experienced lawyer to review it. All rules should be clear and detailed, explicitly stating the parameters of the promotion. Pay special attention to the rules for contests soliciting creative entries. The entry requirements and the judging criteria and process must be outlined to avoid confusion and complaints in the event of a protest. Most importantly rules should also always reserve the right to disqualify entrants for tampering or undermining the promotion.