A competition on Persil's Facebook page was called "Get Messy with Music". A post stated "We bet your kids love making mess and noise! Put them together and you could be onto a winner. Click here for details … Get Messy with Music and Win Persil! Here's where you can find out how to win a year's supply of Persil!". Entrants were required to upload a video of children aged between 5 and 12 years old playing musical instruments getting 'messy' via the Get Messy with Music Facebook app. In order to have the chance to win the Persil Mosh and Wash family festival grand prize, entrants had to enter and win one of the eight weekly prizes, which consisted of a year's supply of Persil and a Get Messy with Music pack. All entries received into each weekly promotional period were considered by a judging panel in the presence of an independent judge. Once the eight weekly prizes had been awarded, the winning entries were displayed within the Get Messy with Music Facebook competition app and visitors to the Persil Facebook page were encouraged to vote for their favourite entry via voting buttons. The grand prize was awarded to the entry with the most votes by a specific date. The terms and conditions included "Fraudulent or deceptive voting practices are not permitted and the Promoter reserves the right to disqualify any entrant suspected of rigging or manipulating the voting process".
The complainant, who was one of the competition finalists and did not believe that Persil had put in place sufficient safeguards against fraudulent or deceptive voting, challenged whether it had been administered fairly.
Unilever UK Ltd (Unilever) said that because the competition involved a voting element they considered it prudent to ensure there were sufficient safeguards in place to ensure fair voting was undertaken and that they could monitor the voting practises. They said they considered carefully what the most appropriate voting rule would be. A decision was taken that the most appropriate rule was one vote per day per IP address. The rationale was to offer a voting mechanic that was accessible to as many people as possible, and to manage, and prevent, multiple entries on single days. The mechanic was used on all the "Get messy with music" competitions that ran worldwide. They believed that was a fair mechanic, as opposed to "one vote per person" which was easily manipulated and that it was in line with previous ASA adjudications. They said this rule was communicated to the eight finalists by e-mail when voting opened, and was also communicated to all individuals before they voted. They provided a copy of the e-mail sent to finalists and recreated copies of the voting pages.
They said a highly secure environment was used behind the scenes to ensure the voting database could not be hacked or accessed. They gave details of how IP addresses were checked to ensure voting had not been manipulated. They said that changing or manipulating the IP address would be outside the abilities of most people as it would require a significant degree of technical competence and programming understanding and ability. Because the voting rule was based on IP addresses, they did not require voters to register or leave any personal information such as a name or e-mail address. They said they chose the "one click, one vote" mechanic because it was simple and encouraged as much voting as possible. They said that because personal information could easily be fabricated, they did not see it as an option to help limit fraudulent voting.
They said they ensured any query relating to fraudulent voting was taken very seriously to ensure that all participants were treated fairly and honourably, and made sure they had sufficient resources in place to examine any issues that arose. They said they would not have been able to disqualify any participant under this provision unless they had evidence of fraudulent or deceptive voting practises. They said a team monitored the voting to ensure the legitimacy of the votes and deal with any queries. They said the team were made aware of allegations of fraudulent voting in relation to two finalists and therefore examined the pattern of voting and votes received. They analysed the frequency, location and timings of each IP address to ascertain if any fraudulent voting had taken place. They also considered how the votes across the finalists built up over the course of the competition. They concluded there was no evidence of any fraudulent voting or deceptive activity that had taken place to circumvent the voting rule.
They also investigated the amount of work that had been done by each participant to generate support in their local community and saw an equal amount of work between the two finalists in question, who had contacted local press, radio and schools to encourage voting. In the team's view it was this extensive publicity that led to the high level of votes, and there was no evidence they had been obtained fraudulently. At that point they had responded to the individuals who had raised concerns and explained their findings, and that they did not intend to disqualify any of the finalists. Once the voting period had ended, the team also checked all the votes to ensure that each day's votes came from a different IP address; they found that was the case. Overall, there was no evidence of fraudulent or deceptive voting practises by any of the finalists and they therefore did not have sufficient grounds under the Terms and Conditions to disqualify any participant.
Unilever said that the voting rule used was one vote per day per IP address. However, the voting rule was communicated to entrants and voters by stating "you can vote once a day (based on IP address)" and "you can vote once a day (which is controlled by looking at your IP address)". The ASA therefore considered that entrants would understand that the voting rule was 'one vote per person per day', and that Unilever had chosen to communicate to entrants that they would ensure that was adhered to by monitoring the IP addresses of voters. Although we considered it would have been preferable for the voting rule to have been stated in the terms and conditions, it was communicated clearly at the voting stage and so we did not consider that was unfair or would have affected whether individuals would have entered the competition.
The complainant said they were able to change their external IP address during the voting process, and therefore had the ability to vote more than once per day. They had discovered how to do that via an internet search. However, we considered that changing their external IP address was likely to be difficult for the average consumer, particularly to do several times, and we understood that the method used by the complainant would not work for everyone. We understood it was possible to use another IP address by the use of a proxy, but also noted that Unilever's analysis had not shown any suspicious voting patterns and that they believed that publicity efforts by the finalists explained the high voting levels. We noted that the use of IP address as the sole mechanism to control voting meant that it was possible for individuals to vote more than once per day, for example from a computer at home and at work. However, we did not consider that was likely to have given any one particular entrant an advantage over another. Because there was no evidence to suggest that fraudulent or deceptive voting had taken place, and because the methods used to monitor the voting were secure and would have been difficult for the average consumer to manipulate, we concluded the promotion had been administered fairly.
We investigated the ad 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.