Pepsi might want to rethink how it handles online promotions.
The soda giant was publicly condemned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it refused to pay members of one family tens of thousands of pounds after they entered an a promotional contest over 11,000 times and won
Essentially, Pepsi MAX ran a six week promo in which it gave away £500 every hour to consumers who entered a four-digit barcode online (or texted it in).
The complainants entered the contest between 35 and 500 times per hour by creating slightly varying e-mail accounts.
Although they won hundreds of times and were notified via email that they would be contacted by a Pepsi official (to confirm that the email addresses were genuine) to collect the prize, Pepsi refused to pay but one £500 prize to each member of the family. The company claims they broke rules stating, "There is a limit of one entry per mobile phone number/email address per hourly prize draw. Only one code can be entered at a time. No bulk, consumer group, third party or agent entries will be valid."
According to the ASA, "PepsiCo said they did not know the exact mechanism that had been used to make such a high number of entries; however, it appeared a robot had been used. They said it was difficult to see how any individual could complete the form manually so many times and although they did not know the mechanism that had been used, bulk entries were not valid and the entries were considered to be bulk."
But the family feels cheated, and the ASA says they have a right to.
Even though multiple emails were not "within the spirit of the promotion," the ASA's condemning report said, "We considered significant conditions of the promotion were not made sufficiently clear and that, because unnecessary disappointment had been caused, the promotion had not been administered fairly."
Pepsi isn't shelling out the extra prize money, and the ASA can't make it, but the watchdog has warned it not to do a similar contest in the future.
This might mark the beginning of the end of these kinds of marketing campaigns.
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