Are Online Competitions Rigged?

Posted on: October 16th, 2013 by Jason 3 Comments

Last week an article appeared on Reddit titled “The Daily Telegraph rig their competitions to be won by friends/contributors”. In the article the author, telegraphpolygraph, outlined how they believe that prizes from a recent Men Expert promotion had found their way to friends and/or contributors of the newspaper. This they felt was unfair and contradictory to the standard terms offered in terms of who could enter. The rules state an exception “for employees of Telegraph Media Group Limited, their agents or anyone else professionally associated with the competition”.

There’s little point raking over that ground as telegraphpolygraph does a decent enough job over at Reddit (full article). However, whilst this episode raises an eyebrow in the direction of The Telegraph, what is more alarming are some of the comments we’ve seen from those on the other side of the comping fence.

The Whole Thing Was Rigged

For example one observer on Reddit explains about how a winner was chosen – “the company decided it would be better to chose someone to win so they could pic a family that would look good on video so the whole thing was rigged”! Another commentator claims, where winners have to be judged, that they have “known people who just give the prize to the most amusing name”.

Another claims that a small media company just placed premium rate numbers in a magazine because they made profit – “there were no prizes as it was all made up”! Radio competitions also get a mention with a “100th caller” prize going to someone who was asked to hold the line. Go further down and someone suggests that many competitions get so low entries (!) that promoters encourage their friends to enter as they’ll have a good chance of winning.

In Some Cases Prizes Weren’t Sent

All compers should read the Reddit article, but do try and find the comments by JackXDark. They claim they worked for a PR company and that “in some cases prizes weren’t sent out at all, or only half of the promised value of prizes was sent”. It’s also worth reading their comments in terms of how some kids competitions were judged!

The only positives that come out of this entire thing is that firstly the original competition has been flagged up (we’ll keep an eye on it for any news) and secondly that there’s a claim that creative competitions tend to receive low entries. The latter perhaps isn’t unknown in comping worlds, but it’s at least worth noting. Mind you, if the judging of these things is questionable it does make you wonder if they are worth the effort too.

The question is just how murky is the world of online competitions? How many PR companies are fudging their winners, picking their friends to win, not dishing out prizes or selecting winners based on their social media position or family’s good looks. If those who replied to Reddit are doing it.. what knowledge does anyone have that it’s not endemic?

The fact is that compers have to be trusting when it comes to the promoter. They have to hope that winners are picked on merit, or randomly in the case of a free prize draw. They have to hope judging is conducted fairly and that Twitter wins are picked without influence of account or image. They have to hope rules are applied, cheats are disqualified and that friends/family etc are omitted from the draws. In most cases there’s very little transparency when it comes to who’s won and who’s lost.

We Win So It’s Fine!

What is particularly fascinating about the above is that looking around comping circles there’s little outrage or concern. “Well we win prizes so some comps must be ok” is as equal to sticking your head in the sand over automated entries. That is particularly relevant as this week also saw the launch of a new pay to enter service from Companzee. They may well be limiting the number of subscribers but their service just adds to the problem surrounding third party entries.

Mind you it wouldn’t be a problem if promoters and PRs monitored their competitions properly. Watching IP addresses, noting where visitors are coming from and looking for entry patterns can help. It won’t stop all problems but it helps reduce them. Of course, if the prizes are going to friends and family then they’ll not be fussed about any of this!

Perhaps the apathy to dodgy competitions is because compers know that there’s actually no solution to them. A brand running a dodgy comp can be reported to ASA or The IPM. These bodies will conduct their investigations and the brand will be told, if in the wrong, not to be naughty and never do it again.

There are no repercussions for basically being deceitful – and that is so wrong.

Join The Conversation

  • elaine12

    very interesting article, also fair play to loquax for presenting a very unbiased but informative piece. Im sure some comps may be rigged but not all, thankfully for us compers.

  • bristolgirl

    It is very interesting, and it might even go towards explaining why you see the same names cropping up again and again as winners whilst others go for very very long dry patches. I have started interacting more with Twitter accounts I follow and enter every week, simple things like I know Tetley do a weekly comp, so as well as retweeting I have started tweeting things like sitting down with a nice cup of tetleys after stressful day. Hasn’t made any difference yet though.

  • libra100

    Interesting article. I have read discussions about possible rigging of the Telegraph competition, and it’s a major (coincidence) that people known to them have been chosen as winners.

    Discussions on Loquax and other websites bring problems to light, and in the long run, do no good to the company concerned.

    There are also bodies such as the ASA and the IPM team who can help when competition entrants feel aggrieved about certain problems.

    However, it’s disappointing to realise that promoters who rig competitions do occasionally get away with it.