Compliant Christmas promotions

You might think that when it comes to Christmas promotions compliance looks rather similar to the way it looks at other times of the year. Well, you wouldn’t be far wrong in that a seasonal promotion, like any other promotion, needs terms and conditions that explain how to enter; when the promotion starts and, critically, finishes; what the prizes are and how they will be awarded; any exclusions or caveats; and the promoter’s contact details.

Good terms and conditions always make it clear who can and – more importantly – who can’t enter a promotion. For instance, if you don’t wish to incur the expense of sending a Christmas hamper packed with Christmas fruitcake and shortbread to Australia, you might want to restrict entry to UK residents only.

That hamper might also contain a bottle of sherry, in which case you also need to restrict entry to over-18s. However, the CAP Code requires promotions be ‘socially responsible’ as well, so, for example, they shouldn’t encourage excessive drinking and indeed the following cautionary Christmas tale gives an indication of the mindset you need to ensure you keep your festive promotions compliant.

Picture the scene. It’s the 2017 office party season and the menu at a pub in Northamptonshire features the ‘Barrow of Booze’ drinks package. This is advertised as appropriate for a minimum of 15 people, but when the ASA does some calculations based on recommended numbers of units, it finds that the barrow contains, well, let’s just say it’s packed with more than enough alcohol to keep Rudolph and his fellow reindeers’ noses red until at least Easter. As a result, the ASA rules that the ad is irresponsible and has breached the CAP Code by encouraging excessive drinking.

Now I love Christmas just as much as the next seven-year-old-at-heart, so I can’t really go along with the notion that Christmas is purely about children. However, I will concede that it’s big for kids, too, but, although targeting promotions at youngsters isn’t in itself a problem, do take extra special care that you’re not inadvertently misleading them or – and I think I can speak for all mums and dads here – encouraging them to pester their parents for a particular toy or experience.

Back in 2011 the ASA found that a Morrisons promotion, which prompted children to collect Disney cards in order to win a trip to Disneyland Paris, had done just that, but even if your promotion is for a product that definitely isn’t aimed at children, the risk of inadvertently appealing to them is ever-present over the festive season.

Last year, for instance, the ASA upheld a complaint that a series of electronic billboard ads for electronic cigarettes, showing Santa Claus, an elf and a gingerbread man vaping, were irresponsible, because the visual imagery had appeal to under 18s, so, as you can see, if you want to stay compliant you need tiptoe around as carefully as the aforementioned Santa when he’s heading back to the chimney.

It also pays to remember that Christmas is a religious festival, too, and to be aware of religious sensibilities. It doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun – it’s the tone that’s key, although of course that will always be subjective – but do make sure your promotion won’t cause offence to those who are religious.

As an example of what isn’t acceptable, back in 2004, the ASA upheld a slew of complaints about an ad which appeared in the run-up to Christmas for the morning-after pill. It was headlined ‘Immaculate contraception? If only’ and the ASA ruled that using a pun based on a fundamental Catholic belief was likely to cause serious or widespread offence in the context of an ad for contraception.

Finally, since last Christmas GDPR has come into force, so you need to ensure that the way you collect data from your prize promotion, and what you do with that data after the promotion is over, is GDPR-compliant. As you might expect, this should be made transparent in your Ts&Cs.

At Prizeology we may take compliance seriously – after all, we specialise in legal and best practice advice – but get in touch via and you’ll find out that we also like to keep things merry and bright!

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and is already counting down the days until Christmas.

© 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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