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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Big Blue Fans Win Big Red Steaks: Promotions That Go Better (?) Than Expected

On Saturday (October 8), the University of Michigan eleven beat Rutgers by the lopsided score of 78-0. I don’t know if the Wolverines were fed red meat before the game, but the fans in Ann Arbor are sure lining up for some at the local Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Prior to the game, the restaurant posted on its Facebook page that from Sunday through Thursday it will offer a discount to match the winning point differential. The original post did not mention a cap, but was subsequently edited to limit the discount to 50% off the bill, excluding alcohol. A post after the game, indicated that the restaurant was booked through Thursday.

The timing of the additional restrictions may be problematic, but regardless, Ruth’s Chris Ann Arbor may have gotten more than it bargained for. There’s always that sweet spot that promotors are looking for to generate traffic without breaking the bank, and thanks to an historic performance by Big Blue, it’s possible that Ruth’s Chris Ann Arbor’s promotion could put it in the red. (more…)

Is It Really “The Best [Insert Product] You Ever Bought?” Amazon Limits Incentivized Reviews

When shopping online, we all want to know what lawnmower/backscratcher/egg timer is the best. Once we’ve found an array of options, many of us go right to the online reviews to see how others liked the product. Caveat emptor be damned, Ralph from Bensonhurst just loved the Handy Housewife Helper, so I want one too. Little did we know that Ralph and his partner Ed were trying to unload 2,000 of these gadgets to the unsuspecting public.

To help bolster the legitimacy of online reviews, yesterday (October 3, 2016) Amazon announced an Update on Consumer Reviews explaining that it has updated its community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. (more…)