One of the questions I’m always asked in interviews is ‘What’s the best prize you’ve won?’ – and I realised that although I have a list of my prizes, I’ve never actually written about my favourites here on the blog. So here you go – the definitive list of Di’s top ten prizes, as of March 2017!
1. VW Beetle
Back in 2002 I was a newbie to slogan comps, but loved a challenge. My mum had spotted an advert in Ideal Home magazine to win a VW Beetle: my dream car! But entry wasn’t easy; you had to buy a Zanussi washing machine and post off a copy of the receipt along with an entry form printed from their website, complete with a tiebreaker slogan. I pondered for a while and decided I couldn’t justify buying a new washer when my old one worked just fine. But then, a week before the competition closing date, my washer broke down. I hotfooted it to Currys and got a new one on interest free credit: I figured by the time I had to start paying for it, I would have sold my Fiesta and have a shiny new Beetle on my driveway. You know me – it’s all about positive thinking! The lead in for the slogan was:” I wash my clothes in a Zanussi because…”. My response was “from Winter woollies to skimpy underwear, Zanussi technology is programmed to care”. I always had a good feeling about this competition and even when the closing date and notification date had passed I still felt confident. Each night I dreamt of driving my prize Beetle and eventually on 10th January 2003 I got the winning telephone call to say I’d won!
2. Trip to the Brazilian Grand Prix
I spotted this competition on a bottle of Fernox F1 that my plumber had brought into the house; we were having drains fixed and a new boiler installed so we had plumbers at our house for weeks on end. To enter, you had to post off a Fernox cap with a slogan: I wrote “for Central heating in tip top condition, Fernox is always in pole position!”. There were 3 winners of a trip to the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. When I saw this competition I knew I would win it; we’d only just booked flights to Argentina for our honeymoon and when I checked the dates of the Grand Prix, it was right at the end of our trip so I knew if we won we could add it to the end of our holiday. My husband took the winning telephone call and couldn’t believe it – Fernox even gave us £1400 cash as we’d already paid for our flights! Although the competition itself was open to everyone, the other two winners were plumbers and it was so funny listening to them and the Fernox reps talking plumbing. Although Lewis Hamilton let us down on the day, being at a Grand Prix was a wonderful and thrilling end to our honeymoon!
3. ‘Lord of the Rings’ trip to New Zealand
This was a huge prize. To celebrate the cinema release of ‘Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’, Ottakars book shops launched a unique competition on their website. Every Friday for 4 weeks at noon a set of 3 literary riddles were published online; you had to note down the first letter of the answers. After publication of the final riddle, you had to work out the puzzle and phone your answer through to an answering machine. The first person to leave a message with the correct solution won the prize. With help from my boss at work we unscrambled the 12 letters to make BILBOS SWORD; we had deduced that one of the letters was a red herring! I phoned through the answer ‘Sting’, the name of his sword. This was about 30 minutes after the lines opened and I didn’t think I was in with a chance. But a few days later I had a call from Ottakars Head Office: I was indeed the first to get the exact answer. He told me most people had left the answer ‘Bilbo’s sword’ or even simply ‘Lord of the Rings!’. The holiday itself was amazing: a 3 week schedule taking in both North and South Islands, visiting film locations, with helicopter and biplane flights, wine tasting, hot springs and bungee jumping. And of course, there was the £1000 spending money, although I did give £500 of that to my boss Fraser who helped me solve the clues!
4. Pink Smeg fridge
Like the Beetle, a pink Smeg fridge was a prize I’d always dreamed of owning, and I won it in a competition on my local radio station Century FM. You had to compete against other daily entrants to get the highest score in a quiz, which involved remembering the most shopping list items the presenter read out. I set up a cassette recorder (can you believe I still have one?) and taped the presenter reading the list, then when I was on hold to get on air I listened and noted down every item. I was – of course – the only entrant to get ten out of ten. Preparation is the key with radio comps!
5. Family holiday to Switzerland
This was a Fathers Day competition which had a rather restrictive brief: upload a photo or video showing how your Dad solves DIY problems round the house using a Toblerone! The three of us worked very hard on this one, and spent an entire Sunday filming and editing this masterpiece.
This wasn’t one of the highest value prizes I’ve won, but the hotel was wonderful and with free crèche and spa it felt like the kind of luxury that parents with an 18 month old wouldn’t usually enjoy. Switzerland was never on my ‘must do’ list so it was a fabulous surprise when we loved it so much!
6. Luxury weekend in Milan
This was a real once-in-a-lifetime experience – a chance for my husband to play in a football tournament with Arsenal legends Robert Pires and Tony Adams at the San Siro stadium in Milan. This was a photo and caption competition on Indesit’s Facebook page with more than 30 winners from all over Europe, but unbelievably less than 400 entries! We stayed in a luxurious hotel in Milan, and while the men went to football training, the WAGs were treated to a £400 pair of shoes each, a makeover and cocktails. On the day of the tournament I also won the fun ‘best supporter’ competition and was rewarded with a signed Arsenal shirt which now hangs proudly in Ryland’s bedroom!
7. Ten days in Japan
Japan is on the wish lists of many compers, and back in 2002 I was lucky enough to win two trips there! It’s a particularly appealing destination for me because my best friend Jo emigrated there in the 1990s, so I’m always looking out for opportunities to go and visit. Both the Japan holidays were won from magazine prize draws, and I spent time crafting home-made Japanese themed postcards to enter. This prize, from Good Food magazine, included a week’s accommodation at the incredibly swish Four Seasons Tokyo followed by a 3 night stay in Kyoto, and various day trips too. We even had a business class upgrade on the plane. It was simply amazing and a real taste of the high life!
8. Dinner at Noma in Copenhagen
Regular readers will know that I hate voting competitions, yet one of my top prizes was won in one a few years ago. Foodie.fm was a brand new recipe site, and to encourage people to submit recipes they launched a competition where the most liked new recipe won €600 to spend at NOMA (at the time, the world’s best restaurant!), flights to Copenhagen and a night’s stay at the Scandic Hotel. I submitted a beetroot risotto recipe as my entry, and contacted everyone I knew and asked them to vote – in the end I got less than a hundred votes but that was enough to win (unlike now, where you usually need 5000 votes to win a competition!). The only problem I had was booking a table – it took months of trying, but we finally went about 8 months later and loved it! Noma’s staff even gave us a behind-the-scenes tour to make our evening extra special.
9. £7,500 cash
My biggest cash prize was won on ‘Are you smarter than a ten year old?’ – this was a TV gameshow hosted by Dick ‘n’ Dom where contestants had to answer questions assisted by a group of ten year old kids. It was brilliant fun and I was delighted to walk away with £7,500 cash a few months before I got married!
10. A Butler for Glastonbury Festival
This extraordinary prize is the one people always want to hear about! This was a postcard entry competition in Q Magazine back in 2003, and the prize was a limo trip to Glastonbury, where my then-boyfriend Joey and I were greeted in the VIP area by our butler Wallace (who had even worked for the Royal Family!) and given backstage passes. Wallace looked after us all weekend, bringing us food, drinks and anything we wanted, and I even got to go up in the helicopter which takes the aerial shots of the festival site. This was a hilarious experience and when I talk about it, I’m reminded of why comping is such a magnificent hobby. Who else can say that they sat on their butler’s shoulders to watch the Flaming Lips play the Pyramid Stage?
I hope this post has been inspiring for you. I’ve been comping seriously (although I never feel ‘seriously’ is the right word!) for almost twenty years now, so I do have lots of amazing prizes to choose from, and you can see from my monthly prize unboxing videos on YouTube, the small ones can be just as delightful as the biggies! These ten favourite prizes have been won across TV, radio, phone, postcard, slogan, cooking, photography and video competitions. I like to give everything a go, and if you’re struggling to win competitions, maybe you could try something different too?
What’s your best prize so far?
I’d love to hear about YOUR best wins too. They don’t need to be biggies – and if you’re new to comping it’s fine to tell me about a small win too. Leave a comment below to let me know!