A meeting with CAP
Recently I was invited to attend a meeting with the Sales Promotion and Direct Response Panel at the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). CAP write the ‘rule books’ for advertising in the UK – The CAP Code (UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing) is the one that applies to prize draws and competitions.
According to CAP, UK prize promotions should be ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’. If you don’t think this is the case with a competition or prize draw, you can file a complaint with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority).
As well as the Code itself, CAP publish guidance online to help promoters understand the Code. Recently there has been a huge increase in the number of UK prize promotions hosted on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Unfortunately many of these promotions are not compliant. The Panel are currently developing new guidance for their Advice Online section to help promoters comply with the Code, and for the first time they invited an ‘outsider’ (me!) to join them at a meeting to talk about problems with social media competitions and prize draws.
RT to win promotions
At Wednesday’s meeting I presented my findings on Twitter Retweet to Win promotions to the Panel – explaining that there’s no way to tell if every valid entry has been included, and as a result RT draws aren’t fair to the entrants. With it being so difficult to choose a random winner fairly, I suggested that promoters may be unfairly choosing their winner from the last few tweeters, from replies – or in some cases picking entrants or bloggers with lots of followers. Several bloggers told me that after winning a ‘RT to win’ draw, the brand ask for a review of the prize on their blog – suggesting the promoters are deliberately choosing bloggers to win. Compers tell me they are more likely to win RT prizes if they strike up a conversation with the promoter – suggesting those promoters choose from @ replies rather than the RTs. In many cases there will be people whose entries are never even seen by the promoter, because Twitter has filtered them out of search. If promoters were asked to produce a list of every valid RT and verify how they chose their random winner, I imagine very few could do so.
Lack of information
In addition, I showed the Panel some examples of the competitions and prize draws we regularly see on social media.
From Twitter, I shared Emmi Caffe Latte’s tweet:
— Caffe Latte UK (@UKcaffelatte) October 10, 2014
From Facebook, I shared this example from the Honey Monster (Sugar Puffs) page:
From Instagram, this prize draw on the John Lewis page:
It’s giveaway time! For your chance to WIN a start-to-finish @bareminerals bareSkin Complexion Hamper, worth £150 simply regram this image, tagging @johnlewisretail in the post! #competition #win #hamper #beauty #bareskin #barescentuals
In all three of these cases there is no closing date or time, and no terms and conditions. For Emmi and Honey Monster, we don’t even know what the prize is. For the caption competition – are the winners chosen at random, or judged? There is minimal information – and it’s not fair on the entrants, who may well be entering after the winner has been chosen.
- On Facebook, promoters are still announcing winners on their timeline rather than contacting them directly. Even if they do message, most non-compers don’t even know to look in their ‘Other’ inbox, so in some cases the post won’t be seen, the message will remain unread and the prize never awarded – again, not fair on the entrants.
- Entrants don’t know their entry has being included – for most Instagram, Facebook or Twitter competitions, promoters rarely Favorite or Like to acknowledge receipt.
- If promoters leave out a closing date, or state the prize will be awarded at 10,000 followers, they will get many more entries as the promotion runs and runs. As it drags on, the Twitter search becomes less reliable and early entries won’t be picked up. In some cases the target will ever be reached, and the prize never awarded – despite the company gaining thousands of new fans in the process – a dishonest way of advertising.
Facebook and Twitter users trust brands to run a fair prize draw or competition. Entrants will Like, RT and Share promotions, even those with a minimal amount of information, but I would like to see promoters treating their fans and followers with more respect.
What promoters should be doing
I suggested to the Panel that promoters need to be reminded of their responsibilities, and this advice could be incorporated into the new guidance section.
- Even on Twitter and Facebook, have a clear closing date and link to T&Cs (use Twitdoc or Facebook Notes) – these T&Cs should not be changed!
- Share the winner’s name and entry (if appropriate) on the relevant social channel
- Explain exactly how the winner is being chosen, particularly for a Twitter ‘random draw’ – if appropriate, add a disclaimer that the promoter is not responsible for the entrant’s tweet being seen if the user is missing from Twitter search results.
- Make an effort to contact winners via a message, or tag if possible
- Use websites or apps to aid tracking of entries – Offerpop, Iconosquare, etc.
Facebook and Twitter guidelines
The Panel agreed that Facebook and Twitter should publish and promote better guidelines on how the platforms should/should not be used for prize promotions. Twitter’s contest guidelines are currently very vague:
“When it comes to picking a winner, you’ll want to see all the contestants. If the updates include @username mention to you, you’ll be able to see all the updates in your Mentions timeline (see here for more information on replies and mentions). Just doing a public search may not show every single update, and some contestants may be filtered from search for quality.”
Asking for @ mentions simply isn’t practical for a big brand where they would get 500+ entries. And the part about contestants not appearing in search – I don’t think many promoters or Twitter users are aware of this issue, but it certainly explains why some users with 5000 tweets have never won a thing!
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram want to make money from promoted posts. Perhaps if they considered banning spammy ‘Like and Share’ Facebook draws, Twitter ‘RT to win’ draws and Instagram Regram draws, more brands would have to pay to advertise?
Appropriate guidance will be created internally at CAP, and then presented back to the Panel for their consideration. CAP will be keeping me up to date with progress. When the guidance is published, I’ll share it on the blog with you and we can be sure to tweet or message it to non-compliant promoters.
What can compers do to help?
Remind promoters that they MUST include a closing date and time, and ask them how they will be choosing a fair and random winner for their Twitter prize draws. Send them a link to the CAP notes on promotions with prizes. If you like, add a link to the comments section here so CAP can keep track of the type of dodgy promotions we encounter on a daily basis!
CAP will be working hard to educate promoters on running fair prize draws and competitions. I’m looking forward to seeing the new guidance when it’s published!