Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Promotions provide an incentive for consumers to engage with a brand by using added benefits, usually on a temporary basis.  This covers a wide range of techniques from simple ‘buy one get one free’ offers and discounts, to prize promotions including instant wins, prize draws and competitions, and charity linked promotions.

The promotional marketing rules apply to consumer and trade promotions, incentive schemes and the promotional elements of sponsorships; they regulate the nature and administration of promotions and apply anywhere that a promotion appears.

The “promoter” is whoever is running the promotion. Some promotions, those in which more than one party benefits (for example, in terms of branding, promotion or revenue) are joint promotions or co-promotions. In these promotions all parties are considered responsible and will be named by the ASA in the event of a complaint. A company that provides the prizes or gifts for a promotion is not necessarily a joint promoter but will be considered one if they benefit.

The specific rules which apply will depend on the kind of promotion being run but the core principles are the same whether it is a discount voucher offer or a long-term loyalty scheme. Specific Code rules apply to promotions with prizes, and marketers running prize promotions should consult CAP’s Advertising Guidance on the marketing of promotions with prizes.

Promoters should comply with all other relevant legislation, including data protection legislation for which guidance is available from the Information Commissioner's Office.

This guidance gives a summary of the key considerations and provides links to further detailed guidance.

Administer promotions correctly and treat consumers fairly

Consider the suitability of the promotion and be responsible

Meet the requirements regarding availability

Include all significant conditions

Running promotions with prizes

Describing gifts and prizes

terms and conditions

Select winners and award prizes in line with the rules

Charity-linked promotions

Be aware of all the available guidance

Administer promotions correctly and treat consumers fairly

Promoters must ensure that their promotions are conducted under proper supervision and make adequate resources available to administer them. Promoters, agencies, and intermediaries should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint (8.14). Promoters must be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants, and must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment (Rule 8.2).

Promoters should also ensure that the structure, or mechanic, of their promotion is not open to abuse. Allowing abuse, or changing terms and conditions part way through to tackle abuse, might cause consumers who have participated fairly to be disadvantaged.

For more information see 'Promotional marketing: Abuse' and ‘Promotional marketing: Changing ongoing promotions’.

Consider the suitability of the promotion and be responsible

Rules 8.3 to 8.7 deal with the protection of consumers, and the safety and suitability of promotions and promotional items.

Promoters must take special care when using or promoting products intended for adults (such as alcohol, medicines, condoms, rolling papers and e-cigarettes) to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of children (8.8), and must not feature alcoholic drinks in promotions directed at people under 18 (8.4). For guidance on the specific rules covering promotions to children, see ‘Children: Promotional marketing’ and ‘Food: Children’. See also 'Alcohol: Promotional marketing'.

Care should be taken when offering promotions for certain products or services. Promotions for cosmetic interventions are likely to be considered irresponsible if they create undue pressure to purchase. See ‘Cosmetic interventions: Social responsibility’.

For additional guidance see ‘Safety’.

Meet the requirements regarding availability

When it comes to marketing regarding promotional items, phrases like, “subject to availability” are insufficient to meet the obligations under the Code. Please see ‘Promotional marketing: Availability’ for information on how apply rules 8.9 – 8.13.

Include all significant conditions

All promotional marketing should include all significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. 

Code rule 8.17 lists the type of information which may, depending on the circumstances, be considered significant. See ‘Promotional marketing: Terms and conditions’ for detailed advice.

Promotions with prizes

Specific Code rules apply to promotions with prizes, which apply in addition to other relevant Code rules in section 8.

These rule apply to any promotion which offers a prize, including prize draws, competitions, and instant wins.

Marketers running promotions with prizes should consult CAP’s Advertising Guidance on the marketing of promotions with prizes.

Describing gifts and prizes

Prizes must be described accurately, and promoters must not confuse gifts and prizes. See ‘Promotional marketing: Gifts v. prizes’ for full guidance.

Promoters must not exaggerate consumers' chances of winning prizes or claim or imply that consumers are luckier than they are. See Promotional marketing: Implying consumers are luckier than they are.

Rule 8.21.1 of the CAP Code prohibits promotions where consumers incur a cost to claim a prize. Charging a consumer to ring and claim their prize is unacceptable (Churchcastle Ltd, 20 February 2013).

Terms and conditions

In addition to including all significant conditions or information (rule 8.17), prize promotions must specify additional information on all marketing communications or other material referring to them, clearly before or at the time of entry, where its omission is likely to mislead. These should be accessible throughout the whole duration of the promotion (rule 8.28). This includes information about announcing prize winners. See ‘Promotional marketing: Prize winners’.

Promotional rules must not be too complex to be understood and must only exceptionally be amended or supplemented with extra rules. There are very few circumstances when changing the T&Cs of a promotion might be considered acceptable.  See ‘Promotional marketing: Changing ongoing promotions’, ‘Promotional marketing: Closing dates’ and ‘Promotional marketing: Terms and Conditions’.

Selecting winners and awarding prizes

Prize draw winners must be chosen in accordance with the laws of chance. If this is not done by a verifiably random computer process, there must be an independent observer. Competitions (which involve an element of skill) must have an independent judge. Please see ‘Promotional marketing: Independent judges and observers’.

Prizes must be awarded as described, or a reasonable equivalent, and advertisers must either publish or make available information that indicates that a valid award took place. See Promotional marketing: Prize winners.

See ‘Promotional marketing: Competitions’, ‘Promotional marketing: prize draws’ and ‘Promotional marketing: Instant wins’ for further details about selecting winners in these types of promotions.

Charity-linked promotions

Promotions run by third parties, such as commercial companies, which claim that participation will benefit a registered charity or good cause, are likely to be considered charity-linked promotions.

Code rules 8.33 and 8.34 set out the requirements marketers must follow when advertising charity-linked promotions. Marketers running promotions which claim that participation will benefit a charity should consider these rules and the following guidance: 'Promotional marketing: Charity-linked promotions'. 

Be aware of all the available guidance

Alcohol: Promotional marketing
Children: Promotional marketing
Promotional marketing: Abuse
Promotional marketing: Availability
Promotional marketing: Charity-linked promotions
Promotional marketing: Closing dates
Promotional marketing: Competitions
Promotional marketing: Subscription traps and free trials
Promotional marketing: Free-entry routes 
Promotional marketing: Front-page flashes
Promotional marketing: Gifts v. prizes
Promotional marketing: Implying recipients are luckier than they are
Promotional marketing: Independent judges and observers
Promotional marketing: Instant wins
Promotional marketing: Lotteries
Promotional marketing: Mystery gifts and prizes
Promotional marketing: ‘Win a house’ promotions
Promotional marketing: High-value prize promotions
Promotional marketing: Prize draws
Promotional marketing: Prize draws in social media
Promotional marketing: Prize winners
Promotional marketing: Scratchcards
Promotional marketing: Terms and Conditions (T&Cs)
Travel marketing: Travel promotions
Promotional marketing: Changing ongoing promotions

This advice is designed to be read in conjunction with the Promotional marketing Section of the CAP Code (Section 8), the CAP Advertising Guidance on Promotions with prizes and the other entries in this advice section. Also, promoters might want to seek legal advice.

AdviceOnline articles may refer to rulings from before 1 May 2015 where the ruling refers to a rule which is unchanged or a where the rationale decision is still relevant in principle. If you’re in any doubt about whether a ruling would be decided in the same way now, please contact Copy Advice.


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