Posts by: Robert Laplaca

Will The Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 Affect Contests and Sweepstakes? (Hint: Yes)

On December 14, 2016, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 was passed to try to put an end to companies taking down nasty reviews about their products.

Congress’s way of telling companies: if you ask for it, you’re gonna get it.

The new law – effective March 14, 2017 – generally prohibits companies from imposing upon users a restriction for posting negative written, oral or pictorial reviews or similar performance assessments about the company’s goods or services.  The new law also prohibits mandating people to transfer their rights to their reviews or feedback to the company (a nonexclusive license is ok).

Could this new law have a dramatic and lasting impact on contests and sweepstakes as we know it?  I don’t think we’re quite at Chicken Little stage, but the reach of this new law could have a serious effect on contests and sweepstakes that seek reviews or feedback on a sponsor’s product.  That’s because the new law applies when the restrictions are contained in “form contracts,” defined as contracts with standardized terms that the other person doesn’t have any meaningful opportunity to negotiation.  Sounds like Official Rules.

“Tell us in 3 words or less how much fun you had on your last Sponsor To The Stars vacation” or “Post your favorite Sponsor Sandwich for a chance to win even more Sponsor sandwiches.” or “Tweet the 50 things you love about Sponsor Soap to #SponsorSoapSweeps.”  All potentially affected. (more…)

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2016: The Year in Review

In case you missed it, here are some notable items from 2016 concerning sweepstakes, contests, and related promotional matters:

Influencers, Native Advertising, and Endorsements

2016 kicked off with reaction to the FTC’s new Native Advertising Rules which seek more transparency in sponsored stories/advertising.

In March, in its first enforcement action, the FTC cracked down on Lord & Taylor for paying “influencers” to attract social media attention to its Paisley Asymmetrical Dress.  The FTC issued a number of directives, including making the influencers aware of their participation, and making disclosure of the relationship unavoidable.

In May, the National Advertising Division (NAD), a self-regulatory industry, issued a decision concerning native advertising appearing in People.com under the “Stuff We Love” section.  The NAD determined that disclosure of the sponsorship must be made before you get to the stuff page.

In July, the FTC charged Warner Bros. with making inadequate disclosures in videos of influencers playing a new video game.  The FTC didn’t like that the sponsorship disclosure was in a collapsed box below the video and needed to be in a place where consumers will find it.

In October, in an effort to comply with the FTC Rule, YouTube introduced a new feature allowing visible text on a video for the first few seconds with the label stating “Includes paid promotion”

The take:  Consumers and the FTC don’t particularly like “influencers” or hidden ads, so be conspicuous. (more…)

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Throw Back Thursday Edition: Vintage Sweepstakes and Contest Ads, How Far We’ve Come

First, a short history lesson.  The term “sweepstakes” dates back to the 15th century in reference to a common game where everyone placed a “stake” and the winner “swept” up all of the stakes when he won.

And how about this – the term “sweepstakes” (or “swoopstake”) was mentioned by no less than William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V, verse 142 where Claudias warns Laertes that if he follows through with his threats of revenge, “that, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe, winner and loser.”

Turn to the 20th century and marketers began using attractive print ads to promote consumer sweepstakes.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane to look at a few interesting ones.

Picture Puzzle Contest (1921) – Or, The More You Buy, The More You Can Win.

In a brazen marketing pitch, the Sponsor makes no bones about the purpose of this Xmas contest: “The object of this picture puzzle game is to get more people acquainted with Minnesota Fountain Pens. … We want you to buy one of our pens for yourself and another one to use as a gift.”  True to its word, the Sponsor included in the advertisement a handy chart of “Prizes” which increase “If no pens are purchased”, “If one $5 pen is purchased”, and “If $9 worth [of] pens are purchased.”  (NB: It’s a skill contest, so no purchase necessary arguably didn’t apply.) (more…)

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A Trap for the Unwary: DMCA Safe Harbor Registration Alert

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take advantage of the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability, an online service provider (OSP) has to register and designate an agent with the US Copyright Office to receive “takedown notices” of user-generated content – the notices from the actual copyright holder saying, essentially, “hey, someone posted my stuff on your website, so take it down!”  Previously, one-time paper registration was all that was needed.

Now, the US Copyright Office recently announced significant changes to the registration/agent designation process effective December 1, 2016 affecting all OSPs (even those already registered). (more…)

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Giving Tuesday: An Opportunity to Market for a Cause

I’ll admit that I’ve been part of the people lining up in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the doors to open on Black Friday. I even (temporarily) lost my young son once even though I specifically instructed him to run toward the tv’s. Luckily, my wife chose to chase him as he ran to the video games, and it ended up a win-win when I got myself a huge flat screen at a great price. But I digress.

As you may or may not know, in 2012, to compete with the commercialism of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the NY 92nd Street Y teamed up with the United Nations Foundation to create #Giving Tuesday.

During the first year more than $10 million in online donations were processed and by 2015 this number increased to approximately $116 million. These numbers are pretty impressive given that according to a 2015 survey, only 18% of consumers were familiar with Giving Tuesday. While this new holiday has been specifically geared toward the charity’s online solicitation efforts, it appears to be an ideal vehicle for corporate giving through cause marketing campaigns. The statistics bear this out: (more…)

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Condemnation, Litigation, Regulation, Legislation, Congratulation – Are NFL Ratings Down because of The Daily Fantasy Sports Crackdown?

 

Sports Illustrated recently had an article listing their experts’ take on why NFL TV ratings are down an overall 11% from last year.  Number 7 on their top 10 list was the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) bans.  Should the past year of condemnation, litigation, regulation and legislation lead to congratulation to aggressive state attorneys general and legislators for this downturn?  Perhaps.  But to the delight of the NFL (and ESPN, CBS and NBC), most states are now saying “Give Peace A Chance.”

First, DFS were flying under the radar and gradually creating a buzz.  Then, DFS exploded last year spurring increased NFL interest and TV viewership.  Because of this popularity, many legislatures took an interest and decided they had to investigate this (new) phenomena.  A number of state attorneys general issued formal opinions condemning DFS and some filed lawsuits against DFS operators.  Now, the dust is starting to clear, and it appears that most states are recognizing that DFS is a form of legal contest. (more…)

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