DMA Corrects Illegal Conference Promotion

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The Direct Marketing Association yesterday modified an illegal promotion that went out in a direct mail campaign for this fall's 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco.


The mailer offered registrants a chance to win a shopping spree upon registering for the conference and entering a code from the back of the brochure. The offer said in part, "Enter your value code when registering and you'll automatically be entered to win a $1,000 Catalog Shopping Spree from the DMA member companies listed below."


Kathy Gilroy, a volunteer with the Northern Illinois Anti-Gambling Task Force, contacted the DMA and DM News about the promotion. The absence of a "no purchase necessary" option made the promotion illegal, she said.


Patricia Faley, vice president for ethics and consumer affairs at the DMA, said she was unaware of the situation until Gilroy called.


"I think that someone in the marketing department put this in as an incentive -- it certainly doesn't sound like gambling -- for registrants to give their value codes, and I guess the general counsel didn't review the copy," she said.


Three elements must be present to constitute a lottery: prize, chance and consideration. It is illegal for any private enterprise to run a lottery without specific governmental authorization. To make it legal, one of the elements must be removed, such as making no purchase necessary.


Faley acknowledged that the promotion was improper and said it will be corrected for the next brochure, which will reach all recipients of the original mailing as well as others. The new promotion will include a statement that says those not registering for the conference can register for the shopping spree.


In April, Gilroy noticed a mailing from the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing that also did not follow the law. When CADM rescinded the offer, Faley recommended that businesses looking to conduct any type of promotion pass it on to an attorney familiar with the law.


"My advice is the same," Faley said this time around. "Make sure an attorney reviews any copy for special promotions."


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