Drawing a fine line between a gift and a prize

Specific rules and norms are set by respective advertising standards authorities in different countries. The same are monitored by committees that keep a tab over advertising practices that can often be misleading. These bodies are independently administered and serve like a watchdog.

For example, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) functions as a self regulatory voluntary organization. The role and functioning of ASCI encompasses addressing complaints received from consumers and industry against advertisements and claims that are considered as false or misleading. It is important in this context that we consider the difference, albeit subtle, between a prize (awarded to a lucky few winners) and a gift (available to all or a majority of entrants to a promotion irrespective of the fact whether they win or lose).

This distinction should always be made amply clear to consumers who are being targeted or approached through promotional offers. If all or almost all participants are entitled to an award in a promotion, it should not be termed a prize. In such a case, it may preferably be denoted as a ‘gift’, ‘reward’, ‘award’ or a similar such term as long as the context does not get misleading to consumers.
For example, promoters should not make a claim that respondents will get to ‘win’ a ‘gift’ because the terminology is improper, confusing and inconsistent. Rather state they would get to ‘win a ‘prize’ or will be ‘given a ‘gift’. Let’s take a practical case. A few years ago, the UK based Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) mulled over a peculiar promotion that involved the promoter offering several prizes and gifts.

The promoter considered that since recipients got one of two or three gifts on offer with no single gift going to ‘all or most’ of them, each gift could well be described as a prize. However, the authorities stipulated that since the vast majority of respondents would get one of two or three low-value items, they should be termed as gifts. The promoter thus had to withdraw the claim that these were rather prizes and not gifts.

So make sure that you promote the program in a proper context so that it is not perceived to be misleading consumers. In other words, drawing a fine line between a gift and a prize is vital.


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