Editorial: No Purchase Necessary

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Hard to believe that two direct marketing associations would conduct what are basically illegal lotteries to draw attendance to their conferences, but watchdog Kathy Gilroy managed to catch the Direct Marketing Association and the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing doing just that ... in the same year.

In April, CADM ran a promotion offering early registrants a chance to win a set of DM reference guides, but it neglected to include an alternative method of entry. "We're only giving away 15 sets -- and you can only be entered in the drawing if you pre-register for DM Days right now," the offer read. A set of reference guides? No big deal, right? Ultimately, CADM rescinded the promotion. At the time, the DMA's Patricia Faley said businesses that conduct any type of promotion should pass them on to an attorney familiar with the law. Faley should have heeded her own advice. In a brochure mailed last week highlighting its fall conference, the DMA included a promotion offering those who register a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree. "Enter your value code when registering and you'll automatically be entered to win a $1,000 Catalog Shopping Spree," the offer read. Again, no way to enter without paying. Interesting attempt to try to track response through the code printed on the back, but follow the law, guys. Faley said the DMA will have new rules -- saying no purchase is necessary -- in its next mailer.

It's just some dumb reference books and a shopping spree, so what's the big deal? Maybe because member companies look to these organizations to set the standard. Some may say the law is stupid, but it's still the law. Sweepstakes problems forced American Family Enterprises to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999. Earlier this month, Publishers Clearing House received $29 million in financing from asset-based lender CIT Business Credit to keep its operations going. Reader's Digest has all but abandoned sweepstakes for its marketing efforts.

The DMA wields a great deal of clout in Washington, but keep letting marketing initiatives like this slip through and watch that clout disappear. If you can't get the little things right, lawmakers may start wondering about the more important ones: spam, privacy, do-not-call lists. If you're thinking of conducting any type of giveaway, make sure you include these five little words: "No purchase necessary to win." Better yet, go show it to a lawyer.


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