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Fairly administering a prize promotion: Walkers Snacks Ltd t/a Quaker Oats

Published on 24 September 2018

What steps are needed for a prize promotion to be fairly administered in accordance with the terms and conditions of the promotion?

The background

A TV ad, Facebook post and website ad were run for Quaker Oats' 'show us your oats' competition:

  • the TV ad featured four people sharing their different oats recipes, and a voice-over sated: "your recipe, your rules.  Share your ideas for the chance to win £10,000 every week with Quaker.  Come on, show us your oats";
  • the image on the Facebook post featured the text "SHOW US YOUR OATS to WIN £10,000 every week create, snap & upload a photo of your unique bowl for a chance to win" and an image of a bowl of oats being captured on a mobile phone; and
  • the webpage featured the same text and image as the Facebook post, along with an online entry form. 

The complaints

The ASA received six complaints challenging whether the promotion was fairly administered in accordance with the judging criteria.  One of the complainants challenged whether the promotion was in breach of the Code as they believed the prize was not awarded in accordance with the terms and conditions. 

The response

Quaker Oats stated consumers were invited to submit a photo of their dishes via Facebook, Instagram or online and each week valid entries were judged according to set criteria, with the winner being announced on Facebook, Instagram and the website.  Entries were also published online.  It was confirmed that the promotion was open to everyone in the UK and Republic of Ireland over 18, except for those set out in the exclusions in the terms and conditions (such as employees of the promotor).  Quaker Oats further contended that a robust and fair approach was taken for the judging of the entries, with entries being judged under four criteria clearly set out in the terms and conditions, being that images should: (a) be practical to make; (b) display a balanced range of toppings; (c) display a balanced range of flavours; and (d) be visually appealing.  Each criterion constituted 25% of the final score of each image. 

Quaker Oats confirmed that because one of the criterion related to the visual appeal of the image, the application of such a criterion could have contributed to winning entries having a professional appearance.  Further, the standard of images was generally very high and entries needed high scores in all four categories to win, which may have further led to winning entries having a 'quality' or 'professional' appearance.  The TV ad featured entries in which care had been taken over the visual appeal of the images, and Quaker Oats considered this was an accurate representation of the nature of the promotion and the judging criteria which would be applied.  Further, once a provisional winner had been selected, an external agency was used to conduct verification checks to ensure the selected winner and entry complied with the terms and conditions (including checks for photo editing, image searches for any prior publication and confirming no employment of the provisional winner by the promoter). 

Quaker Oats explained that following the announcement of the winner for the fifth week of the competition (whose entry was checked and verified), the relevant image appeared on the blog of another individual.  Following investigations and discussions with the winner, it was confirmed that the image belonged exclusively to the winner, who had been helped by a friend who subsequently featured the image on their blog and there was no evidence the image had been posted online before entering the promotion.  Quaker Oats recognised this situation could cause some participants to be disappointed and so an additional winner was selected for that week who also received a prize of £10,000. 

Clearcast had assessed the TV ad to ensure it complied with the BCAP code, and the competition was set up to follow the terms and conditions of the promotion. 

The development

The complaints were not upheld. 

The ASA noted that one of the judging criteria referred to the visual appeal of entries, and that complainants noted that the winning entries appeared to be professional quality images submitted from industry professionals.  The ASA considered that even though the TV ad portrayed entries being captured using a smartphone, that did not preclude participants from using other devices to take an image, such as a high resolution camera. 

The ASA considered that it would be reasonable to expect that winning entries would be of a high visual quality and the terms and conditions of the promotion did not state that industry professionals would be excluded from entering the competition.  As such, the ASA concluded the promotion was conducted in accordance with the judging criteria and was fairly administered. 

The ASA acknowledged that in one instance during the promotion, further investigation were required to ensure the winning entry complied with the terms and conditions of the promotion, and it was confirmed that there had been no breach of the terms.  Nevertheless, Quaker Oats took further steps in announcing an additional winner to ensure no unnecessary disappointment was caused to consumers.  As such, the ASA concluded the promotion was not in breach of the Code. 

Why is this important?

This ruling highlights the importance of setting out clear terms and conditions when running a prize promotion; the terms and conditions of the prize promotion clearly declared visual appearance as a judging criterion, which the ASA confirmed meant winning entries would likely be of a 'quality' standard.  Further, industry professionals were not explicitly excluded from taking part in the promotion.  The ruling also demonstrates how, by taking proactive steps to verify promotion entries and address any possible unnecessary disappointment, regulatory action may be avoided when running a prize promotion.

Any practical tips?

Take care when drafting and reviewing prize promotion terms and conditions; well-drafted terms will help avoid the wrath of the ASA following any complaints regarding fairly administering promotions.  Further, a proactive approach to verifying prize promotion entries and checking any possible breaches of the promotion's terms will enable you to minimise the risk of complaints and a regulatory investigation.  In addition, these steps should help you avoid having to offer up an additional prize (or prizes) to avoid causing disappointment by other entrants.

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