Time To Ban Automated Entry Competition Services?

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by Jason

Automated competition entry services are places where people can pay a site to enter competitions on their behalf. The sites “find” competitions and then using scripts automatically generate entries for these people. The entrants don’t visit the site, don’t know anything about the prize on offer and just sit waiting to hear of a win.

They effect a lot of competitions, yet it’s strange to us that no one is really being that vociferous about them! If a voting competition appears there’s a bit of an outcry about it being unfair, but a normal boring old prize draw – surely that can’t be cheated?

Well yes it can, and it’s effecting a lot more competitions than people realise. Thankfully some of these sites list the prize draws they’ve entered on their user’s behalf – last month these included Sport.co.uk, iVillage, Pocket Lint, The Telegraph, Tomy, Kikkoman, Hornby, Just Eat, Shudoo, Zavvi, Sendit.com, Herts24, Evens Cycles, La Senza, Cartridge World, Advanced MP3 Players, My Bag, Beds123, Mens Health, Roberts Radio, John Lewis, Elle UK, Lunchbox World, Mobile Choice, Splenda, Boxfresh, Alton Towers, Clash Music, The RAC, TP Toys, ESPN, Air France, Friday Ad, AJ Electronics, The Times, Mydeco, Treatme, The Body Shop, Lynku, Veggie Vision, Bafta, Phones4U, Bells Whisky, The AA and Denby.

And that was just one service and covers about a quarter of the sites they list.

Looking at another site they also have amongst the sites they target…

BBC Good Food, Sheerluxe, Marie Claire, Bighams, Instyle, Gardeners World, Absolute Radio, Company, Baby Expert, Wedding Magazine, Bluewater, Donald Russell, Dialaphone, Sendit, Crabtree & Evelyn, Chortle, 9bar, House to Home, English Cheesecake Company, Miele, The Daily Mail and Wine Pages.

Plus a lot lot more. By the way, the service doing the above has been advertised by a comping publication. In essence they’re saying that automated entries are fine – then taking your money for their magazines and online site. We think this is outrageous!

What Do Automated Services Mean for You?

This means, that as a comper you’re competing against people who haven’t visited the promoters website, who haven’t answered the question and who don’t even know the prize they’re trying to win!

Now some of the above do have terms and conditions in place that say “no bulk entries” or “no third party entries” and we can only hope some are doing things behind the scenes to disqualify automated entry service entries too.

And What About Promoters?

For promoters they’re not getting visitors (just a script), have no one interacting with their website so no chance of cross selling or advertising to them, and they’re getting the email address of someone who doesn’t even know who they are.

We know that some siteowners are far from pleased about these services. Last week we had two sites contact us regarding a mass of entries they’d received. Thankfully, especially in the case of one where they thought it was our fault, we advised them on automated entry services and sorted things out.

This is the kind of thing PromoVeritas should be pushing out into the greater marketing world, not the age old fact that people enter competitions as a hobby.

So What Can Compers Do About It?

Well you could just say nothing and hope the many brands mentioned above are taking action OR you could perhaps contact them and ask them? Let them know your concerns (if you’re concerned) – point them to this blog if need be. Let them know that you think people should have to visit their websites to enter their competitions and win their prizes.

It’s all well and good wanting to ban voting competitions on Facebook, but automated entry services effect a far more compers and a lot more promotions. Why compers are all quiet about it we don’t know?

So What Can Promoters Do About It?

Monitor your competitions and look for strange activity. Monitor IP addresses and mess about with your questions (randomise them for each user is a really good method). Force people to register with you before they can enter or even run your competition on Facebook. CAPTCHA is also useful to block some automated entry services.

Above all make your rules clear that you don’t want automated or bulk entries and that you will disqualify people. And then stand by them!

If your site does appear on the automated competition entry service lists AND you disqualify entries please do get in touch. We’re also interested if site’s have information on IP addresses of the automated entries they receive.

We’ll continue to tell promoters about automated entry services and encourage them to act against them. It’d be great to see compers having the same passion for this issue as they do for voting competition problems.


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