Posts Tagged: Sweepstakes

“You Are [NOT] a Winner” Consent Order Entered Against Printer/Mailer of Deceptive Prize Notifications

On February 9, 2017, a consent order was entered in favor of the FTC against the general manager of a company engaged to procure printing and mailing of deceptive prize notifications.  The individual got laminated for $800,000 (subject to reduction).

The lesson: anyone involved with deceptive prize/sweepstakes/contests mailings could get in serious trouble.

According to the Complaint, the sponsor, using the aforementioned company, mailed hundreds of thousands of personalized cash prize notifications announcing that the recipients had won a cash prize of $943,543.54.  (NB: maybe a million dollars outright seemed too suspicious?)

Of course, the offer was made to sound juicy: “YOU HAVE WON A CASH PRIZE! … Your name was identified among a tiny percentage of ALL eligible individuals.  The fact that you have won a cash prize must be thrilling and somewhat overwhelming.”

Of course, they targeted the elderly.  Of course, they asked for a “fee” of $25 to collect the prize.  Of course, people complied.  And of course, they didn’t get the cash prize.

Why go after the printer/mailer?  The sponsor gave him the electronic templates of the prize notifications, the outer envelopes and the return envelopes, and instructed him on the quantities to print, who to mail them too, and when to mail them.  (He may have done some editing too.)  He then arranged for the notices to be printed and mailed out.  According to the FTC this was enough to be in on the scheme. (more…)

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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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Pinterest Revises Promotion Guidelines

Recently and without fanfare, Pinterest revised its Promotion Guidelines in a few significant ways.

The old Guidelines said you cannot “run a sweepstakes where each Pin, board, like, or follow represents an entry;” you cannot require people “to Pin from a selection;” and you cannot “require a minimum number of Pins.”

These restrictions are gone.  The new Guidelines now expressly prohibit three things:

  1. Requiring entrants to post a specific image. Pinterest says: “Give Pinners the ability to choose Pins based on their tastes and preferences, even if it’s from a selection or a given website.”
  2. Allowing more than 1 entry per person. Pinterest says that multiple entries are “less authentic and can negatively impact other Pinners.”
  3. Suggesting that Pinterest sponsors or endorses the promotion.

Requiring a pin to enter, pinning from a selection, and having a minimum number of pins to enter are now all apparently permissible.

Yay Pinterest! Let the kids play.

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In Honor of the Olympics We Give You the International Sweepstakes Edition

In a twist that would make Alanis Morrisette sing, “Isn’t It Ironic”, last week the New York Times reported that a survivor of an Emirates airline crash landing in Dubai learned days later that he had won $1,000,000 in the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Sweepstakes. http://nyti.ms/2bhMxkK

For this Sweepstakes, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, each passenger that goes through Dubai International Airport can purchase a $278 ticket with a chance to win a $1 million prize. The odds are an incredible 5,000 to 1. (For a state of reference, the odds of winning $1 million in the McDonald’s Money Monopoly Game are roughly 1 in 513,591,720.)

Dubai Duty Free’s “pay to play” sweepstakes seems as foreign to Americans as the Olympic events found only on an Internet feed. Perhaps you didn’t know that goggles are optional in synchronized swimming or that Greco-Roman wrestling forbids holds below the waist or even that it’s “badminton” and not “badmitton”. Whenever you “go global” you need to brush up on international rules, and this is no less important when running a sweepstakes. Therefore, I give you some unusual sweepstakes quirks throughout the world: (more…)

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