Magazine article Marketing

Mirror Case Reveals Promotions' Pitfalls

Magazine article Marketing

Mirror Case Reveals Promotions' Pitfalls

Article excerpt

The Mirror Group's potential liability for its flawed scratchcard game has doubled over the past week to reach [pounds]100m. Lawyers co-ordinating a mass legal action against the publishing company have been contacted by another 1000 people chiming to have won [pounds]50,000 each, on top of the 1000 traced last week.

It all shows that sales promotion can be the most treacherous field in marketing.

A mix-up over the wording of rules in the Daily Mirror on July 3 led to an influx of people claiming they had won [pounds]50,000 on a special Mirror hotline.

Thousands of people are convinced they are winners, and their lawyers, Hodgkinson and Benton, believe a test case is the only way to resolve the dispute. If a judge finds the Mirror Group is liable to pay the full amount, that makes a cool [pounds]100m, not counting payments to any other people who come forward with a 'winning' scratchcard.

The Mirror Group scratchcard case highlights some of the basic reasons why promotions can be so hazardous. Unlike an ad, a promotion can't be pulled if unforeseen problems arise. Once it's out in the public domain, problems can take years to sort out.

Second, most promotions are one-off prototypes, often put together in a hurry, so not only are there few established precedents to follow, there is also little time to ponder all the pitfalls.

Scratchcards not up to scratch

Problems with scratchcards are nothing new. In the Asda Cash promotion in 1984, customers noticed the silver coating on some of the game cards was too thin, allowing the answers to be read. Captain Morgan rum fell foul of the same mechanic when scratch panels mounted on bottle necks warped, leaving the answers visible. The promoters hadn't reckoned on the high average temperatures of the top shelf of off-licences.

Seemingly innocent spot-the-ball competitions have proved so malignant that at least one large sales promotion agency will never recommend them. In one, involving a rugby match, the game ball was studiously air-brushed out, but sharp-eyed consumers spotted another tucked under the linesman's arm.

Promotions involving gifts or incentives are frequently tripped up by fulfilment problems. McVitie's offered free squeaking plastic penguins to Penguin buyers in 1975 - but many failed to utter a sound because they contained too many holes.

A more recent Persil promotion, offering a video, ran into problems when the address of the mailing house for the Irish version of the promotion was printed too close to the British one, with thousands of people applying to the wrong one. …

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