Walkers rapped for failing to spell out online holiday giveaway rules

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

ASA said website ad did not fully explain 'Random Swap' element. Pic: ASA
ASA said website ad did not fully explain 'Random Swap' element. Pic: ASA

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PepsiCo-owned Walkers Crisps has been rapped by the UK's advertising watchdog, which received more than 100 complaints about the way the potato chip brand ran a major on-pack promotion.

Walkers this year ran a ‘Spell & Go’ promotion that gave consumers the chance to win one of 20,000 holidays by collecting letters via on-pack codes or by participating in activity on Walkers social media pages, TV ads, an interactive billboard or through a national newspaper.

Consumers could enter the letters on a dashboard on the promotions website, with those participants able to spell out the name of one of the 26 destinations winning a holiday to that destination.

The promotion – which was advertised on TV, the Walkers website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and on pack – also offered a ‘Random Swap’ function that enabled participants to swap up to five of their letters for a random selection of other letters.

ASA received 112 complaints

UK watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation into the promotion after receiving 112 complainants challenging whether it was conducted fairly as they felt certain letters needed to spell out the holiday destinations were being withheld.

Walkers explained to the ASA that all 26 destinations required one of the three letters C, D or K. These three letters were far less common than the remaining letters, although the company said it had ensured there were sufficient for the 20,000 holidays to be won.

Up to mid-June, reported Walkers, more than 12.8 million valid codes had been entered by more than 655,000 participants. Of the 12.8 million codes, Walkers issued 98 letter K, 278 letter C and 252 letter D.

Walkers told the ASA it believed the total 628 of those three letters issued was in line with the ratio of forecasted wins over the total life of the promotion.

'Could have been clearer'

Walkers also explained that the letters obtainable through the ‘Random Swap’ function did not initially include C, D or K. The company admitted to the ASA that it could have been clearer how Random Swaps operated, adding that it had added C, D and K to the Random Swaps pool of letters for the final week of the promotion.

Gary lineker
A TV ad for promotion was not in breach of the advertising code, ruled the ASA

Making its ruling on the complaints, the ASA said it was satisfied that a small proportion of the total number of letters in circulation were C, D or K – rather than those letters being withheld from the on-pack promotional mechanism.

However, the ASA felt consumers would expect the Random Swap – which is described in an ad on the Walkers website - to include all letters, and that it was likely to influence their decision to purchase promotional packs of crisps. It added that not making it clear that the Random Swap did not include all letters was misleading and likely to cause unnecessary disappointment to consumers.

Website ad in breach of code

For this reason, it ruled the ad on the Walkers website was in breach of the Code of Advertising practice, although other ads associated with the promotion were not.

The ASA told Walkers the website ad for the promotion must not appear again in the form complained about, and urged the company to ensure that all aspects of future promotion were communicated to consumers.

The ASA did not uphold a complaint about issues such as packs of crisps without promotional codes, or the website refusing to accept codes, as it felt the overall number of issues reported to Walkers Snacks was small given the size of the promotion.

Walkers Crisps comments on the ASA ruling

Following the ASA ruling, Walkers said it appreciated that the online letter swapping mechanic could have been clearer and that it will “ensure all future promotions take this feedback on board​”.

We welcome the ASA’s recognition that our Spell & Go promotion was fair as everyone who participated had an equal chance of winning one of the 20,000 holidays available​,” it said in a statement, adding that it had given 796 ​families, four-star, seven-night holidays worth more than £1.35m ($1.8m). 

 “We’re aware some customers are disappointed that they haven’t been successful in winning a holiday. 20,000 holidays could have been won if all the promotional packs in the market had been played and we would have honored all of those should that have been the case​.”

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