CAP guidance on prize draws in social media

In the world of Facebook and Twitter, prize draws are often poorly conducted and the ‘random’ winner selection not always as it seems! Back in October I met with CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) for a panel discussion of the problems surrounding prize promotions on social media, particularly Twitter. CAP have since published an initial set of guidance on Prize draws in Social Media in their online database, advising promoters, bloggers and agencies on conducting draws fairly. This is a work in progress, as CAP guidance is based on the outcome of ASA rulings, and there haven’t been many rulings on Twitter, Instagram, blogs or Facebook yet – but that’s where we can help out!

As compers, we should be submitting complaints about poorly run prize draws and competitions more often – the ASA can then decide to conduct investigations, publish rulings and update the online guidance – or even the CAP Code itself – accordingly. Once a ruling is published, it’s a useful point of reference for both promoters and compers – for example, if a promoter won’t tell you a winner’s name, you could email them a link to this Superdrug ruling where they refused to give the winner’s full name and CAP considered they were in breach of the Code.  Not sure how to make a complaint? My post How to complain to the ASA will help you out.

CAP guidance on prize draws in social media

You can read the CAP guidance in full here, and the green quotes below are what I consider to be the most important points:

The initial marketing communication should include the information that the consumer needs to make an informed decision as to whether to participate in the promotion. These significant conditions will normally include the closing date, how to enter and any restrictions on entry. As well as the significant conditions, the participant must be able to access the full terms and conditions before they enter the promotion. This can be done via a sign post to further information or hyperlink.

Many companies don’t include a closing date in their Retweet or Facebook timeline prize draws, which is incredibly frustrating! I’m sure many of us have happily retweeted comps from friends’ timelines without realising the winners have already been announced, yet all a promoter needs to do is add a few characters: eg. Ends 3pm 21/12. The tweet or Facebook post should include the most important details (closing date for example), but there should still be a link to full T&Cs.  This could be on an external website, on a Facebook note or even using something like Twitdoc. All prize promotions must have T&Cs available to be read before we decide to enter. If a prize draw or competition has no closing date or T&Cs, you can submit a complaint to the ASA as it is in breach of the CAP Code.

Promoters must make available on request the name and county of major prize winners.

If a promoter chooses NOT to announce a winner’s name, they must tell you the full name and county of a major prizewinner if you ask – if they refuse, you can submit a complaint to the ASA.

Promoters running promotions where entry is based on sharing a post (for example, “Retweet to win”, “like to win”) or by using a hashtag will need to be able to show they had a reliable method to collect all the entries.

You may recall my post about struggling to pick a winner for a RT prize draw – it’s impossible to track every entry unless a promoter pays a company to do it for them (and that’s not cheap!). As a result, some promoters choose winners from recent Twitter replies, hashtag searches or Facebook comments, rather than collating a complete list of every Retweet or Facebook share. On Facebook where entrants are asked to simply ‘share the post to enter’ (which actually breaches Facebook terms) – those who share the post to friends only won’t be seen by the promoter, but their valid entry should still be included in the draw! (watch my video demonstrating this). Every valid entry should be included in the draw – if you don’t think this has been done, you can submit a complaint to the ASA.

Promoters need to be able to show that the winner was selected at random.  This can be done by using a computer process that produces verifiably random results, by an independent person, or under the supervision of an independent person.

Not only do promoters have to be able to show that every entry was included in a prize draw, they also need to demonstrate that the winner was randomly selected. If you’re concerned about how a winner was actually picked at ‘random’ then you can submit a complaint to the ASA.

If you run a promotion offering a prize it must be awarded. Promoters must take adequate steps to alert winners to the fact they have won. In social media, announcing the winner once (for example as a public tweet, post, message or responding on a comments feed) is unlikely to be sufficient.

Yes promoters – you really do have to give away that prize! Posting the winner’s name once on Facebook isn’t enough – lots of winners only see those posts 6 months later when the prize has been awarded to someone else, and many people never realise they were a winner because they don’t know about the Other inbox, Social Searcher, the Competition Winners group or other tricks of the comping trade! Ideally, apps should be used to collect email addresses rather than relying on contact via Facebook.

You’d be surprised how many promoters don’t know about the CAP Code or how to conduct prize draws properly – and the new guidance should be an eye-opener! If you do see a prize draw with limited information, you could tweet or send a Facebook message along the lines of “I see your prize draw doesn’t have a closing date or T&Cs – have you seen the CAP guidance at ?” – and let’s hope we see some improvements!


7 Responses

  1. stacey caine says:

    There is still an awful lot of Facebook competitions where they are asking that you must like and (SHARE) to enter, should all these kind of competitions be reported? Some of the pages doing them have been running competitions constantly for years, but still seem to request people to share their page and post in order to enter.

  2. Kim W says:

    There are a few companies and little businesses that run a “winner must claim prize within 24 hours or 48 hours or the prize will be re-awarded”. Is an email just enough, as I didn’t see mine for months through junk email etc. and never thought to check “runner up” rather than “winner” as a search word!? (One to add to your posts, Di, if you haven’t already, as others may wish to use that and have forgotten it too!) Personally, I think it is far too soon to claim a prize, the person may have entered the night before and gone on holiday for 3 weeks! How fair is that? Is there anything that can be done, as there’s one company in particular that does this and sticks to it? Thanks.

    • That’s a great tip about searching for ‘runner up’ – thanks!
      As for giving a limited time the CAP Code recommends 28 days so it could be worth an ASA complaint, certainly so in the case of a winner who saw the announcement immediately after the claim deadline has passed. The CAP Code states that promoters should avoid ‘unnecessary disappointment’ – only giving 24 or 48 hours to claim a prize is likely to lead to disappointment in many cases!

  3. Diane Wood says:

    I recently complained to the ASA about a company as they said their last 3 winners (at least) of their monthly iPad competition wanted to remain anonymous, they’d claimed that they were fully conversant with all the CAP codes and it would be more advantageous if they could announce their winners. When the ASA told them they were obliged to name their winners, they decided instead to withdraw the monthly competition – halfway through a month!
    When I again complained to the ASA, the company claimed that they hadn’t posted the competition and therefore hadn’t got any entries and even though I’d sent them links to a posts and tweet, the ASA took their word for it!
    So, of course, I then sent another, detailed, email with links to all the posts, tweets etc including the minimum number of entrants to the compete this company claimed they weren’t running any more!

  4. ClaireT says:


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