The product packaging for McCain French Fries, seen on 1 December 2017, featured a promotion named ‘GREAT VILLAGE RAFFLE’. The front of the packaging included raffle tickets graphics with text that stated “WIN INSTANTLY ONLINE £3 MILLION OF PRIZES AVAILABLE” and an image of a Mini Cooper.
The back of the packaging featured a banner graphic with text that stated “McCain are hosting a Great Village Raffle with lots of amazing prizes inspired by Emmerdale”. A number of raffle ticket graphics were also featured with text on each that stated “WIN 10 MINI ONE COUNTRYMANS”, “WIN 5,000 GASTRO PUB MEAL VOUCHERS”, “WIN 500 COUNTRY SPA RETREAT VOUCHERS”, and accompanied by further text that stated “PLUS MORE AMAZING PRIZES”. A text box headed ‘To Enter’ contained further information about how to enter the promotion. Further text below the text box stated “Visit www.greatvillageraffle.co.uk for full list of prizes and more details”. Another text box further down also stated “… Enter from 01.02.17 to 31.01.18. Enter your promotional code online to instantly find out if you are a winner. 28,515 prizes to be won include 10,000 chances to Adopt a Piglet. Winner selected via an algorithm, not all prizes will be won. Prizes do not include expenses, meals, travel unless expressly stated, see terms for more details…”.
Compers News, who understood that there were 28,515 prizes available and only 159 of those prizes had been won, challenged whether the instant win prize draw had been conducted fairly.
McCain Foods (GB) Ltd t/a McCain stated that the promotion was to support the McCain sponsorship of the TV programme Emmerdale, during 2017, and it was a branded promotion running across all retail packs of McCain products. The promotion was an instant win promotion with a £3 million prize fund, which went live on 1 February 2017. They said that they used an accredited agency, Blue Chip Marketing, to develop the promotion, and the terms and conditions of the promotion were approved by the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM).
McCain provided an explanation on how the prizes were allocated. They stated that unique, random, alphanumeric codes were printed on a total of 53,317,540 promotional packs. The total prize fund available to be won was valued at £3 million, which equated to 28,515 prizes. A total of 342,713 promotional pack codes were entered into the instant win promotion, with 159 winners being awarded the prizes. They explained that the prizes available were randomly assigned to codes using an algorithm created by the agency that had previously been verified by an independent third party. When a code from a promotional pack was entered onto the promotion website, the code would be validated against the algorithm, and the system then assigned that code to a random user ID, and that user ID was assigned to a prize. No prizes were pre-allocated to codes.
McCain said it was clearly stated both on the packaging of promotional packs, and in the terms and conditions, that the prizes were available to be won, but there was no guarantee that all prizes would be won. The mechanic ensured that all prizes were available to be won as they were not pre-assigned to any in-pack codes. It meant that if a promotional pack did not end up in the market, the opportunities to win were not limited. They stated that the promotion had concluded and the winners’ list had been made available to interested parties. They also provided a list of the winners and the prizes that had been awarded to each of them.
They stated that the mechanism for the promotion was one commonly used, and had been approved by the IPM. Notwithstanding the above, McCain said they listened to consumer feedback and reviewed their promotional policy, and took the decision not to use the same mechanic in future.
The ASA noted the following headline claims were stated prominently on the promotional packaging: “WIN INSTANTLY ONLINE £3 MILLION OF PRIZES AVAILABLE”, “WIN 10 MINI ONE COUTRYMANS”, “WIN 5,000 GASTRO PUB MEAL VOUCHERS”, “WIN 500 COUNTRY SPA RETREAT VOUCHERS”, and “PLUS MORE AMAZING PRIZES”. The terms included on the packaging also stated that “Winner selected via an algorithm, not all prizes will be won”. We considered that, because of the emphasis on the amount and value of prizes available, and the quantity of different types of prizes, consumers would expect from the headline claims that all of the prizes referred to would be won, save for the winning codes that had not been entered into the promotion.
In addition to the terms on the packaging, we noted that the terms and conditions on the promotional microsite included the following which explained how the prizes would be allocated: “9. … Each participant will then be randomly allocated their raffle ticket. If the raffle ticket number matches any of the numbers on any of the prizes, the participant will win the allocated prize ...”; “12. … All prizes will be randomly allocated and assigned to promotional pack entries via an algorithm in the promotional microsite”; “24. Prizes have been fairly and randomly linked to an independently verified algorithm. Although all prizes will be available to be won, there is no guarantee that all prizes will be won.”
Based on the information provided by McCain, we noted that the likelihood of winning one of the 28,515 prizes out of the 53,317,540 available promotional codes was 0.05%, and that of the 28,515 prizes, only 159 (approximately 0.56%) had been won. We also noted from the winners’ list that the prizes that had been won were mostly: country spa vouchers; beauty treatment vouchers; family theme park vouchers; gastropub meal vouchers; country B&B meal stay vouchers; and opportunities to adopt a piglet. The prizes that were higher in value or available in much smaller quantities, such as the ten Mini Countryman Coopers, two Emmerdale acting masterclasses and three Emmerdale set tours with dinner, had not been won by any of the winners.
The packaging stated that not all available prizes would be won and the winners would be selected via an algorithm, and the terms on the promotion website, to an extent, provided an explanation on the mechanic by which the prizes would be allocated. However, we considered that both the packaging and the terms on the website did not give any indication of the likelihood of consumers winning a prize. Because the likelihood of winning a prize (and therefore the number of prizes that had actually been won) was so extremely low, we considered that the overall impression created by the package significantly exaggerated the likelihood that consumers would win the prizes. Whilst we considered that it was reasonable to use a mechanic in such promotions that accounted for the possibility that some promotional packs might not be sold during the promotional period, the ads should have given a realistic indication of the chances of winning in order that consumers could make an informed decision on whether participation was worthwhile.
Because the ads for the instant win promotion significantly exaggerated the likelihood of consumers’ chances of winning prizes, we considered that the promotion was likely to cause unnecessary disappointment and concluded that it had not been conducted fairly.
The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
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.
All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include:
How to participate
How to participate, including significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion (Significant conditions for promotions), 8.20 8.20 Promoters must not exaggerate consumers' chances of winning prizes. They must not include a consumer who has been awarded a gift in a list of prize winners. and 8.25 8.25 Participants in instant-win promotions must get their winnings at once or must know immediately what they have won and how to claim without delay, cost or administrative barriers. Instant-win tickets, tokens or numbers must be awarded on a fair and random basis and verification must take the form of an independently audited statement that all prizes have been distributed, or made available for distribution, in that manner. (Prize promotions).
We noted that the promotion had ended. We told McCain Foods (GB) Ltd that if they intended to run similar instant win promotions in the future, they should ensure that those promotions were conducted fairly and did not cause unnecessary disappointment, by ensuring that their ads did not exaggerate the likelihood of consumers’ chances of winning prizes.