5 times the wrong winner was announced

Winner verification is a key aspect of successful promotions and competitions, but it’s often overlooked. Failing on the winner verification front can do serious reputational and financial damage to your brand. It’s also embarrassing, as the following folk found out.

At no.1, and the shameless peg for this post, are This Morning’s Holly and Phil. Earlier this week they called a winner live on air to tell her she’d won £5,000 – except they called the wrong person. They apologised, hung up and then called the right person, but it was all rather awkward and I would humbly suggest that their winner verification process needs an overhaul, although they did have the decency to ring the non-winner back to give her £1,000. Mind you, the Twitter verdict was she should have had £5,000 and Twitter had a point, because the CAP Code says you can’t tell someone they’re a prize-winner if they’re not. My verdict? Check you’ve got the right winner. And then check again.

No.2 and it’s Oscars night 2017. La La Land has just won the award for best picture – except it hasn’t. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway got the announcement wrong, but it wasn’t really their fault. Apparently, some star-struck accountant from PCW, the firm charged with ensuring that the Oscars voting and awards process was accurate and fair, was too busy taking backstage selfies and handed them the wrong envelope. The statuette eventually went to Moonlight. It’s probably unlikely you’ll ever find yourself in such a glitzy scenario, but nonetheless, do focus on the job in hand and don’t get distracted.

At No. 3 it has to be Jacqueline Collins, the 2017 UK general election returning officer for the constituency of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. Once the count was complete, Jacqueline duly took to the stage and announced that the Labour candidate had won, when in fact the winner was the Conservative candidate. Admittedly this was the first time a Tory MP had ever taken the seat, so perhaps the result was something of a shock and not what Jacqueline had been anticipating, but the moral is clear: prepare properly and don’t let yourself be taken by surprise.

For No. 4, let’s revisit the 2015 season of XFactor, when rookie presenter Olly Murs, bless him, made a bit of a blunder. The judges couldn’t make up their minds whether to send Monica Michael or Anton Stephans home, which meant the decision had to go back to the public vote. However, Olly, who seemed to know what the outcome of the public vote was already, plunged straight in and announced that Monica would be leaving the competition. It was all smoothed over, but the gaffe didn’t build viewer confidence in the XFactor voting process. Needless to say, Dermot was back as presenter the following year. My takeaway from this is always employ a professional who knows what they’re doing.

This one dates back to 2012, but at No.5 it has to be Boots, which ran a competition to win an amazing trip to Barcelona, including return flights, three nights in a luxury hotel, tickets to a Barca home game and, er, a haircut for two. Unfortunately, all 9,000 entrants got an email saying they’d won and when it became clear they hadn’t all hell broke loose. By way of compensation, Boots gave all the non-winners a £10 store voucher, which was nice and not inexpensive given the scale of the winner verification error, but hardly the same as a trip to Spain. For obvious reasons, this one makes my blood run cold and I can only reiterate my point from No. 1: when you’re verifying winners, check, check and check again.

And finally, an honourable mention to Prue Leith and her tweet about the winner of this year’s Great British Bake Off. She got the name right, of course – it was Sophie Faldo – but her timing was wrong. Prue was in Hong Kong and claimed she had miscalculated the time difference. The lesson here is do the maths.

Winner verification is one of Prizeology’s specialisms. We can check your winners are who they say they are and confirm that they’ve adhered to your terms and conditions. Get in touch via hello@prizeology.com if this is something we can help you with.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.

© Prizeology and The Prizeologist Blog, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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