Could the $24m McMillions Scam ever happen again?
McMillion$ (on Sky from 27 May 2020) is the incredible story of how staff at the marketing agency behind the famous McDonald’s Monopoly promotion in the USA carried out a massive fraud and stole $24 million in prize money over ten years. The six episodes follow the FBI investigation that uncovered the scam and led to over 50 people being indicted.
The series raises the question, just how safe are the prize promotions that are run by brands in the UK? Do they ever award those big prizes, and do they do so fairly and securely? And could that level of fraud happen again ?
Our CEO Jeremy Stern thinks it most definitely could. As the founder of PromoVeritas, for the past 20 years his mission has been to keep prize promotions safe and secure – protecting the public from bad actions, and protecting the reputation (and budgets) of brands such as Cadbury, Kellogg’s, and Pepsi. ‘I started the company following a career in marketing, where I saw many bad situations. Winners being picked and then rejected because they shopped in the wrong store or lived too far from an airport or they were too old or did not fit the desired image of the brand. I wanted to provide an easy way for brands to run their promotions right – and follow the law and the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority.’ Now the company he started in his back room, is responsible for over 1,500 promotions a year, awarding over 1 million prizes for promotions run in more than 50 countries. They are the people who put the Golden Tickets in packs of Cadbury Creme Eggs, worth £10,000 each, judge Instagram photo competitions and handle all the winners of weekly prize draws for O2. Just last month they oversaw the secure awarding of the top £1m prize in the Heart FM Make Me A Millionaire live on-air promotion.
‘The problem’ Stern says, ‘is that promotional compliance is not considered enough at the right level. Lawyers might know what needs to be done, but not the mechanics, the creative agency is usually more interested in ‘the next big thing’ than in the mundane task of properly judging competition entries. And few brand managers think about the security risks of their great ‘Golden Ticket’ instant win idea – prize packs can ‘go missing’ anywhere along the distribution chain’.