Back to Basics: Why is independence essential when judging prize promotions?
This month Emily Vickers of our legal team focuses on judging. If you are running any sort of prize activity in the UK, then you need to know Sections 8.24 to 8.26 of the CAP Code – the rule book of Advertising Standards Authority, the watchdog who regulates the UK Marketing industry. But why is independence so important for competitions?
A lot of time and effort goes into the running of any type of promotion but most of it is spent at the front end, on the idea and the creative. However, the back end is where most of the problems tend to occur – although they can be easily sorted with a little bit of care and knowledge.
For example if you are planning a competition or contest, a game of skill or judgement, then clause 8.26 of the CAP Code is for you :
8.26 In competitions, if the selection of a winning entry is open to subjective interpretation, an independent judge, or a panel that includes one independent member must be appointed. In either case, the judge or panel member must be demonstrably independent, especially from the competition’s promoters and intermediaries ….. Those appointed to act as judges should be competent to judge the competition and their full names must be made available on request.
The aim of this rule is to ensure that promoters have evidence that they ran their competition fairly and winners were based on the stated judging criteria, in other words that it was not fixed. If you are happy to outsource your winner selection to a specialist, then conforming to these requirements should not be any trouble. Running it internally is likely to cause trouble, embarrassment and a potential ASA Ruling.
Who can be my “independent” judge?
Theoretically, a promoter could use the proverbial “man in the street” to oversee a prize draw, but competitions are a little more complicated because they generally require a judge who is both independent and competent to judge the entries. So, if entrants are required to write a recipe, promoters need to involve a chef (but not their own inhouse chef, as he is not independent), if entrants need to submit a holiday snap, then someone with a creative background would make a good judge. In all cases that judge, or if there is a panel, at least one judge, , must be independent – and this excludes the promoter’s agencies, printers, PR company, digital supplier and so on who are not deemed sufficiently independent to count.
That is why PromoVeritas exists, to act as an independent promotional verifier – whether we are picking winners of prize draws, or judging competitions for Cadbury, checking winning boxes for Heart or adjudicating the votes for live events like the National Television Awards. Fair and compliantly. We can either judge all the entries and supply you with the winners list, or we can create a shortlist of say the top 50, and then chair a judging session with the promoter and others to select the final winners. It is a more skilful task than you might imagine.