Walkers crisps competition advert banned by watchdog

Walkers crisps Image copyright John Kelly

An advertisement for a Walkers crisps competition offering 20,000 holidays has been banned after complaints it was almost impossible to win.

The "spell and go" promotion invited people to collect the letters to spell the names of 26 far-flung holiday destinations.

However participants said the letters C, D and K seemed scarce.

Walkers said the contest was fair, but agreed some of the wording "could have been clearer".

Destinations on offer included New York, Hong Kong or Sri Lanka. But in the end, Walkers confirmed, fewer than 800 of the 20,000 holidays available were won and more than 100 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).


The "spell and go" competition has now ended but the ASA - which ruled against the ads - said Walkers must explain all conditions clearly in future promotions.

The company had widely advertised the competition in May. Brand ambassador Gary Lineker was featured in the campaign on its website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as on television and the crisps' packaging.

Customers were encouraged to collect crisp bags which featured special codes. When they entered the code online, they were awarded an individual letter.

Apart from the apparent lack of crucial letters, some customers also reported problems relating to the website accepting the codes.

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Defending the promotion, Walkers said all 26 destinations included at least one of the letters C, D or K - "type one" letters - and enough of these letters were in circulation to allow all 20,000 holidays to be won.

All consumers who experienced problems submitting their codes on the website had had the issue resolved, as far as it was aware, the company said.

After investigating the complaints, the ASA said it was satisfied a small proportion of the letters in circulation were indeed the seemingly elusive "type one" letters, and they had not been withheld.

However, it was not satisfied with the "random swap" function - which allowed participants to exchange letters within a "pool" on the competition website - which stated "all letters are treated equally".

The pool was made up exclusively of "type two" letters, meaning C, D or K could never be won, the ASA said.

'Equal chance'

The complaints watchdog said it considered the exclusion of these all important letters to be "a significant condition" likely to influence people's decision as to whether to take part in the competition at all.

Not mentioning that only the "type two" letters were available in the swap was "misleading and likely to cause unnecessary disappointment to consumers", it said.

It told Walkers that it must ensure all conditions were communicated to consumers in future competitions.

Walkers said it welcomed the ASA's recognition that the promotion "was fair as everyone who participated had an equal chance of winning".

It added: "We appreciate that the online letter swapping mechanic could have been clearer and we will ensure all future promotions take this feedback on board."

The company was "aware some customers are disappointed", but 796 families had won four-star, seven-night holidays worth more than £1.35m as part of the competition, a spokeswoman said.

"Twenty thousand holidays could have been won if all the promotional packs in the market had been played and we would have honoured all of those, should that have been the case," she added.

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