Running Email Marketing Competitions: The CAP Code

International law firm Outlaw, say that ‘marketing by email has become a key channel of communication for many businesses across the UK’. However, they say that ‘the level of government and industry regulation has greatly increased in recent years in this area creating what many businesses now regard as an overly complex patchwork of rules and standards’.

The Power Of Competitions:

Competitions can be a great way to engage more with existing and potential customers whose details you have on your marketing database. They are also a fantastic way for brands to boost their online profile, drive traffic, and even generate leads.

However, if email is going to be your vehicle of choice for your competition announcement then you can’t simply whip up some alluring creative, add some pretty pictures and hit ‘send all’.

If you’re thinking about launching a competition via email, then hold off from hitting send until you’ve read this post and familiarised yourself with ‘the CAP code’.

What Is The CAP Code?

The CAP code is essentially the rule book for (non broadcast) advertisements and direct marketing communication between marketers and their targets and it is enforced and overseen by the ASA, the Advertising Standards Authority.

What Are The Chances?

ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media and they ‘consider a competition to be a promotion in which prizes are allocated on the basis of skill and for which a charge may be made or the purchase of goods or services required’. The CAP code says that ‘promotions for which no skill or knowledge is necessary should not be described as a competition or otherwise imply that anything but chance is involved’.

T’s & C’s:

The ASA assert that all competitions should include specific terms and conditions. Even though research has shown that very few people read the full terms and conditions, they must not be omitted. According to rule 8.17 of the CAP code, significant conditions include:

  • How to participate; are there any costs involved?
  • The start date
  • The closing date
  • Any barriers to entry; is anyone not eligible? For example if someone works at or knows someone who works at the company running the competition?
  • Marketers should also include details of any ‘other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers’ decision or understanding about the promotion’

And the winner is…

Unfortunately for trigger happy marketers keen to move ahead with their competition, there are a few more rules that need to be adhered to.

Rule 8.20 states that ‘promoters must not exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning prizes’, they should also make sure that rules are not overly complicated.

When it comes to the prize, marketers must ensure that they honour what prize is described upon competition announcement, if this is not possible for whatever reason then they must provide ‘reasonable equivalents’.

Also, in an effort to encourage entries, marketers must not overstate the chance of winning that any one participant has.

Marketers must also ensure that entrants can easily access the following information at the time of launch and throughout the competition duration:

  • Constraints on the number times a person can enter
  • Whether the promoter may award a cash prize as an alternative to the goods/services advertised.
  • When winners will get their hands on their prizes (if this is to run beyond 30 days)
  • How the winners will be contacted and when this will happen

What If You Can’t Get Hold Of The Winner?

The ASA expect the business and/or brand running the competition to make ‘all reasonable efforts’ to contact the winner. Failing that, if contact is proving an onerous and unfruitful task, marketers are not obliged to pass the prize onto the second place or runner up (although many do).

Post Prize Giving Publicity:

So, you’ve given the prize away to the worthy winner and now you want to shout about it from the rooftops and tell others what a generous brand you are? Hold fire, you can’t actually do this unless you’ve given the information to would be participants (or at the very least made the details available on request) before they decide to participate in your contest.

Is That It?

You’re nearly good to go, you can read the CAP code in its entirety here although be warned, it is almost 200 pages long.

Even so, marketers need to ensure that they everything they do is legal and once terms and conditions have been written and researched for one competition, it is likely that they will only need slight revisions from contest to contest.

Although this post might make competitions sound a little onerous, they should certainly take a place in every marketer’s arsenal, especially with the growth of the social internet (Twitter, Facebook and the like) which effortlessly breaks down boundaries and potentially amplifies exposure of contest, competitions (and therefore brands) to an extremely vast audience.