Judged vs Random: which is best?

Twenty years ago, creative consumer competitions were all about writing – mainly slogans, tiebreakers or poems – and often required a purchase. Competition winners were always judged according to a set criteria. Now though, most of us have mobile devices capable of taking – and editing – high quality photos and videos. Wordplay is at a minimum and brands want to see photos and movies instead – ideally of a standard they can share with their fans! So we’re seeing many more photo/video competitions on websites, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – some with winners drawn at random, some with winners chosen by a judging panel.

But which method is best for a creative comp – random winner or judged winner?

I recently asked 400 compers in my Lucky Learners Facebook group for their opinion in a simple poll – 70% said they preferred a judged competition, while 30% preferred a random draw.

Of course, there are many factors to take into consideration – the value and number of prizes, the difficulty of the entry task, and the cost of any products featured in the entry. It also depends on the amount of time left to enter – after all, if the competition closes at midnight, a random draw is much more appealing to a comper than a judged competition!

Which is best - a judged competition or random prize draw?

What are the advantages of random and judged creative prize promotions (eg. tiebreaker, photo, video) for a brand?

Random winner


  • Anyone can take part without having to spend time (or money!) on a creative entry – meaning there should be lots more entries
  • Cheaper and easier to administer the promotion, with no judging session involved


  • Entries may be low quality, as people will spend less time on them – so the winning entry may not be of a good enough standard to use for publicity!
  • If the random winner happens to be an excellent entry, fans may complain it wasn’t a fair random draw!

Judged winner


  • If the judging is conducted fairly using a list of criteria, the best entry will win
  • The promoter is ensured a good quality entry to use for their publicity afterwards


  • Employing a judging panel can be time consuming and costly
  • There will be less entries as less creative fans won’t think it’s worth bothering
  • Fans might disagree with the judges’ choice of winner


If winning entries aren’t going to be used for publicity purposes, the required qualifying products are cheap to buy and easily obtained, or there are a large number of low value prizes – opt for a random prize draw. 

Good example: Pringles Stack & Share

If the winning entry will be used for publicity, a lot of effort is required to enter (eg. time consuming video entry, tracking down products to include in a photo, or getting to a certain location) or there is a single high value prize – opt for a judged competition.

Good example: Ready Brek Glowing Creations

A combination of judged and random

This is the best solution and there are a few ways it can be done (the first is my favourite!):

  • the best entry (as decided by judges) wins the top prize, but in addition there are one or more random winners chosen from all entries – perhaps choosing a random winner weekly or daily during the promotion to keep people interested.
  • a shortlist of winners is chosen by judges, and then the winner is chosen at random from the shortlist – this method ensures there is a good quality winning entry but can be time-consuming as judges must look at every entry
  • a shortlist of winners is chosen at random, and then the winner is judged from the shortlist – this means less administration time and costs for judging, but could exclude an amazing entry from the judging!

But what about voting?

Choosing a winner by public vote can be controversial and traumatic for all concerned – I don’t recommend it, and neither do the Institute of Promotional Marketing.

Terms, conditions & criteria

Whichever method is used to decide a winner, it’s essential that it’s made very clear to entrants before they take part – it’s not acceptable to state the winner is judged, and then to add in a public vote to T&Cs later on. A surprising number of brands don’t state upfront whether they’re choosing a winner at random or with judges. And if the winner will be chosen by judges, there must be judging criteria (most original, relevant, creative etc.) – choosing a ‘favourite’ or ‘the best’ entry won’t wash with the ASA. In addition, there must be at least one independent judge on the panel.

To choose a winner fairly and at random, these tools will help:

If there’s a budget available, PromoVeritas can help with a supervised random draw or independent judging for a promotion.

Whether the winner is chosen at random or according to judging criteria, it should also be checked that the entry complies with all terms & conditions, and doesn’t breach copyright (check a photo is original using a reverse Google image search).

Which do YOU prefer – judged or randomly drawn winners? Let me know in the comments!

Did you find this post useful? Join my promoters mailing list for the latest tips and advice on running fun, fair and successful promotions. 

(Judge photo copyright andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo )

3 Responses

  1. Sophie Lily says:

    I prefer judged but I’m s but disheartens at the moment as I came across as comp from one of my favourite shops offering a 2000k gift card win them. You had to design a room. I was really excited and spent ages, whoever had the most votes won. Unfortunelty I quickly cottoned on that users were using private browsing to vote for themselves thousands of times 🙁

  2. John Ettery says:

    It has to be judged, otherwise there is no point in asking people to be “creative” and the lack of creative comps around makes it even more annoying, if you go to the effort of writing a tiebreaker, take a picture, write a short story, etc only to find the effort you have put in, has made absolutely no difference to the selection of the winner.

  3. Chris says:

    I prefer Judged but only if the judging is fair. IE -the entry complies with the criteria ( and amazingly they do not quite often). Also quite a few are down to the personal opinion of someone – e.g. captions and photos etc.
    With random draws, I may be cynical but I suspect some are not random at all. I wonder what system they used to choose the winner.
    We cannot sure that any winner has been chosen fairly but we have to trust the organisers.
    I once entered a Pinterest contest and the winner was the only one that did not comply with the rules. (they did not name their board correctly). When I queried it they said, Oh we don’t bother with things like that. !! BTW the company was Trouva.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.