The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) operates and enforces both the Broadcast Advertising Code (BCAP Code), produced by Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) for broadcast advertising and the UK Code of non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code) relating to non-broadcast advertising.
On the 20 June 2018, the ASA published its ruling in relation to the “Show us your oats” advertising campaign run by Walkers Snacks Ltd t/a Quaker Oats (“Quaker Oats”).
The ASA considered complaints made about the 10-week promotional “Show us your oats” competition which launched on 1 January 2018 and required participants to submit images of their homemade porridge via Facebook, Instagram or the Quaker Oats promotional website.
The competition was advertised on the Quaker Oats website, the Quaker Oats Facebook page and through a television advert. To enter the competition, participants were asked to “upload a photo of your unique bowl [of porridge] to win” a weekly prize of £10,000. The television advert showed individuals taking photographs of their porridge using smartphone cameras.
The ASA received six complaints challenging whether the competition had been fairly administered according to the judging criteria. One of the complainants also complained that the prize was not awarded in accordance with the terms and conditions and challenged whether the promotion was in breach of the Code.
The terms and conditions of the promotion stated that “images submitted should be practical to make, display a balanced range of toppings, a balanced range of flavours and be visually appealing. Each of these four categories counts for 25% of the final score of an image.” The promotion also made clear that the entries would not be judged on “professional quality”. The complaints to the ASA remarked that all winning photographs appeared to be of professional quality and that undue weight had been placed on the ‘visually appealing’ criterion when judging entries.
The ASA considered that the competition was not in breach of either the CAP or BCAP Code. It stated that, despite the television advert showing individuals taking photographs on smartphones, the competition did not prohibit entries taken with high-resolution cameras or entries made by professional photographers. The ASA accepted that it was reasonable to expect the winning entries to have high visual appeal and noted that the terms and conditions referred to four judging criteria including the visual appeal of the entry.
The ASA was particularly interested in the fact that PromoVeritas, the agency which operated the competition, took steps to ensure that the each provisional winning entry complied with the terms and conditions of the promotion. In addition to verifying that each winning entry satisfied the four key criteria, PromoVeritas also checked for unpermitted photo editing and conducted image searches to confirm the absence of prior publication. CAP Code rules 8.2 (Promotional marketing must be conducted fairly) and 8.14 (Proper administration) and BCAP Code rule 28.1 (Competitions should be conducted fairly) were considered.
This case highlights the importance of clarity when setting entry criteria for promotional competitions. It also demonstrates the need for competition administrators to provide reasonable evidence to verify the compliance of the winning entry with the terms and conditions of the promotion.