Chasing unicorns and Ts&Cs

It started with a poster, which could be seen in three locations and which asked people if they wanted free clothes. If they did – and who wouldn’t? – they had to follow fashion brand Pretty Little Thing on Instagram. Once they’d done that, they could access an Instastory, which instructed them to add the comment ‘Free clothes’ to any post.

Then there was a tweet which offered £1000 in clothes vouchers if people followed Pretty Little Thing on Instagram, spotted a post with a unicorn in it – and who doesn’t love a unicorn? – and added the comment ‘PLTunicorn’ to that post. Finally, an Instastory ad also asked people to find the unicorn, add the comment ‘PLTunicorn’ and follow the Pretty Little Thing Instagram account.

Basically, these were two limited-time promotions, which ran in January and February this year. They were presumably designed to gain the brand more followers on Instagram and generally promote its products, and although they were slightly complicated in that both were advertised on more than one platform, they weren’t really what you might call high concept.

However, five people complained to the ASA about the promotions on the grounds that, because there weren’t any terms and conditions on the ads, they were misleading and contravened the CAP Code. Pretty Little Thing did in fact amend the Instastory for the free clothes promotion so the Ts&Cs could be viewed by swiping up from the story, and once potential participants reached the unicorn Instastory the Ts&Cs were available there. However, the ASA decided that key information – for example, the closing dates – was missing from the poster and the tweet that directed people to the Instastories, and initially from the free clothes Instastory itself.

Promoters, it said, should communicate all relevant and important conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information was likely to mislead. In both these promotions, people who might be interested in entering the prize draws had to go through too many steps before they could make a decision about whether to participate in the promotions. Pretty Little Thing had drawn up Ts&Cs and they were available on the company’s Facebook page, but what I take from this ASA ruling is that Ts&Cs, certainly the crucial ones, should be available upfront.

Pretty Little Thing were able to amend the free clothes promotion while it was live in order to add the Ts&Cs to the Instastory. That’s the beauty of social media promotions and that’s good, but unfortunately the complainants saw it before this was done, so I also take from this ASA ruling that, despite the flexibility of social media, you still need to think through promotions carefully and you do need to get it right the first time.

Prizeology can’t promise you unicorns (or indeed a new wardrobe), but we can promise you well thought-out promotions and robust Ts&Cs. If you’d like us to work our magic for you, do get in touch.

As well Prizeology’s chief prizeologist, Sarah Burns is a Scambassador for the National Trading Standards Scams Team and an anti-scam campaigner.
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