An interesting ruling from the UK's Advertising Standards Authority this week highlights the pitfalls of running a prize promotion when you don’t fully understand what’s involved. We’ve seen this happen many times with influencers and bloggers seeking to drive 'follows' on social media through eye-catching giveaways that go wrong.   

This time, it’s fashion and lifestyle blogger Briley Powell, who has been pulled up by the ASA for failing to award the advertised prizes in her Instagram giveaway. She offered a £250 voucher for a fashion brand, plus a bundle of other products. All entrants had to do for a chance to win was to like the post, tag their bestie, and tag and follow Briley Powell.

To cut a long story short, a winner was selected. The winner claimed she didn’t receive the prizes. Briley Powell said she had sent three of the four prizes but withheld the £250 voucher when she was contacted by the winner about the non-delivery of prizes. She didn’t like the winner’s tone and decided to investigate the winner’s eligibility. It turned out the winner was not following Briley Powell and was apparently using spam accounts to find and participate in promotions like hers. So Powell disqualified the winner, who then seems to have complained to the ASA.

The CAP Code requires promoters to award prizes within 30 days (unless otherwise stated in the promotion terms). The ASA upheld the complaint on the basis that one prize (and possibly all of them) had not been awarded and Briley Powell should have had robust procedures in place to show that the prizes had been sent. 

They didn’t seem to have much time for the argument that the winner wasn’t eligible. They said the winner might have been following Briley Powell at the time of entry (who knows?) and there was no requirement that the entrant continue to follow her after the promotion. So tough luck.    

Putting aside the question of whether the promotion complied with Instagram’s terms and conditions - its terms prohibit certain types of tagging in promotions and require certain releases and acknowledgements in the promotion rules - this is an interesting example of how these sorts of giveaways can come back to bite the promoter.

It would be interesting to see a term requiring entrants to maintain their social media follow for a year after the promotion ends or face having their prize clawed back. I don’t think that’s going to fly somehow! But the point about checking a winner’s eligibility at the right time is worth dwelling on. All the likes, tags, follows and shares (exhausting…) should have been tallied as soon as the winner was selected, and the winner disqualified at that point. It would have been possible to verify (and document) whether the winner was a follower at that time. But not after the event, by which time they may have moved on to the next giveaway. 

Giveaways such as this are all over social media, run by people who do not necessarily know how to run them properly, and challenged by an increasing community of 'compers', looking for competitions to enter, and with a strong awareness of the relevant laws and codes. Will this ruling stop this from happening? No. But what should give pause is the fact that the value of these giveaways to the blogger or influencer must surely be extremely limited. If the purpose is to drive follows, then this example shows that the benefit is fleeting - people may follow you during the promotion but afterwards they drop you. And so all you’re actually left with is an upheld ruling from the ASA.