Ad description

Two ads for Wedding Magazine’s “Wedding of the Year” competition to win a wedding worth £25,000:

a. A post on their Facebook page seen on 30 March 2015 stated "EXCITING! We've launched a competition to offer one lucky couple their dream wedding day, worth £25k, taking place in October 2015. Click here to submit your application and read more [short link to their website]. Don't forget to share with any brides and grooms-to-be you know below!". It included a "Share" button under a photograph of a bride and groom.

b. Claims about the prize, such as venue, how to participate and significant conditions such as closing dates for each round of the competition, how to vote, when the winner would be announced and when the prize would be taken appeared on (Wedding Magazine's website) in June 2015.


Two complainants challenged whether the promotion had been administered fairly.


Hubert Burda Media UK explained that the prize for their “Wedding of the Year” competition was a complete wedding package worth £25,000. The first stage of the competition invited entrants to submit a photograph of themselves along with details of the proposal and an explanation as to why they wanted to win. Only the ten submissions with the highest number of votes would proceed to the next round and entrants were encouraged to get friends and family to vote for them.

Three couples made it to the final round in which they were asked to upload a video in which they had to cover: what it meant for them to be in the final three; what they thought of the honeymoon destination; and their bridal party. The three finalists were told to upload their videos and that voting for the final round would open at 1pm on 29 June. On 29 June, Hubert Burda Media contacted the finalists via email and stated “Voting the final round is now officially open. Voters can vote once per 24 hours per email address, with voting closing at 1pm [8 July]. The winning couple will be the pair with the most votes at the end of this period”.

Hubert Burda Media used Pure360, a third party, to manage and monitor the voting and who looked for suspicious voting activity across all entrants. The terms and conditions stated “No bulk, third party or automated entries permitted or those submitted via macros or similar. The Promoter [Hubert Burda Media] may disallow entries, refuse to award any prize, or seek its recovery, in the event of an entrant’s fraud, dishonesty or non-entitlement under these terms and conditions”.

Hubert Burda Media explained that every incoming vote was saved with the email and IP address from which it originated. They understood from Pure360 that voting from the same email address for the same entry was only possible after a countdown which Hubert Burda Media defined. They said that votes coming from the same IP address to the same entry were saved in a 'pending' status which meant voters had to confirm their email addresses as valid so that the vote could become ‘accepted’. They explained that mechanism was in place so people sharing the same IP address were still able to vote individually. The mechanic meant that even after a vote was ‘accepted’, those votes were flagged so that it was still possible to see whether it had been logged as a “pending” vote.

Hubert Burda Media explained that on the morning of 8 July, they were contacted by a number of people who had noticed an increase in votes for couple A which they believed had suddenly increased massively overnight. As a result of those concerns, Hubert Burda Media contacted Pure360 to ask them to look into the voting pattern for that particular couple. Pure360 confirmed to Hubert Burda Media that they believed they had noticed suspicious voting only for couple A.

Pure360’s investigations had ascertained that the increased votes for couple A had come from only two IP addresses via domain names which had been registered by the female of couple A. They had also noted that those domain names had been registered approximately a week before voting closed. During their investigations, Pure360 had concluded that a number of scripts were running to create multiple entries to boost couple A’s ranking. They noted that votes had been placed every few seconds, which indicated to them that those votes were being placed automatically, and that in a 24-hour period votes for couple A had almost doubled from approximately 8,000 to 16,175.

Hubert Burda Media said that Pure360’s investigation showed that many of the email addresses used to submit the large number of votes for couple A were basically the same but with only small changes. They also noted that more than ten thousand votes came from the same IP address in a period of only five days.

Pure360 looked into the voting pattern for the other two finalists and noted they had been increasing steadily over the voting period, with an average of 1,600 votes placed per day. Couple B’s votes accrued steadily using a range of email addresses which they could trace back to the couple’s place of employment and a social media campaign to help that particular couple win the competition. Couple C’s votes had been increasing at a steady rate too.

Hubert Burda Media said that because of the concerns raised about the voting for couple A together with the outcome of Pure360’s investigation, they disqualified couple A.


Not upheld

The ASA understood both complainants were concerned about the voting for the finalists. One complainant believed there had also been suspicious voting for Couple B (who became the eventual winners) because that couple had received 1,600 votes a day but noted their YouTube video only had 500 views. The same complainant also raised concerns that couple B had received 4,000 votes in the 24-hour period leading up to the close of voting. The second complainant expressed concern that the couple they were voting for, couple C, was receiving fewer votes than the other two couples. They were also concerned that couple B had received a large number of votes (14,000) and had received 1,600 votes in one day. Therefore, they had concerns about the way in which the promotion had been run.

We noted the competition’s terms and conditions, which were available before and at the time of entry, stated that no automated entries were allowed. Therefore, in light of concerns being raised by members of the public, we considered it was reasonable for Hubert Burda Media to review the voting pattern of all their finalists following what appeared to be the sudden increase in votes for one particular couple.

We noted Hubert Burda Media used a third party to monitor the voting who were also concerned about a potentially suspicious pattern of voting for couple A. They provided evidence which demonstrated the time at, and the email and IP addresses from, which those votes were submitted. We considered the measures put in place meant that Hubert Burda Media could verify the origin of votes to ensure the terms and conditions of the competition were followed. The evidence we saw showed that very little time elapsed between votes being placed for couple A over the period in which voting was open; the timings varied between 10 and 20 seconds. We therefore considered we had seen evidence to demonstrate that Hubert Burda Media had put into place adequate resources to supervise each stage of the promotion; to verify the votes being submitted; and to ensure that voters adhered to the specific term that no automated entries were allowed.

We understood the complainants’ concerns but we were satisfied that Hubert Burda Media had accounted for the circumstances for the increase in voting pattern for couple B and that couple C's votes had maintained a steady flow of votes over the voting period. In addition, we were satisfied that the terms relating to voting had been made clear and were available before the time of entry; that they had taken reasonable steps to verify the apparently large increase in votes for couple A before taking the decision to disqualify them from the competition; and that there were adequate resources in place for the administration of the promotion. Therefore, we concluded Hubert Burda Media had administered the promotion fairly.

We investigated the sales promotion under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  8.1 8.1 Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.  and  8.2 8.2 Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.  (Sales promotions) and  8.14 8.14 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.  (Administration), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

8.1     8.14     8.2    

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