Ohio RV dealership shows how not to conduct a promotion

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An interesting press release came to my attention today. It was issued by an Ohio RV dealership and distributed nationwide via a popular PR website.

I’m all for contests. They are great ways to generate enthusiasm for a company or a product. It’s also a fun way to attract attention, build a database of contacts and encourage people to visit a business.

But, if done poorly, the promotion risks generating a backlash of negative publicity that will negate everything else a company is trying to accomplish.

Case in point, an Ohio RV dealership announced plans to conduct its “annual contest giveaway.” I’m not going to identify the business because I really don’t want the owners to get in trouble.

But, right off the bat, I’m confused. Is it a contest in which people compete for a prize, or is it a giveway for which people just need to enter? States have different rules for each.

The announcement starts with hype as the company refers to itself as “the leading RV dealership.” Is it the leading dealership in that neighborhood, city, region, state, nation or worldwide? I don’t recall ever hearing about the company before.

Whenever I see a press release start out by noting a firm is the “leading” in anything, I know it was generated by an out-of-touch public relations firm because no news outlet in its right mind would simply copy and paste that nonsense unless it could be verified.

The second paragraph begins with “In lieu of customer appreciation, XYZ dealership is giving away a completely free RV, no strings attached.”

“In lieu of” means “instead of,” such as when an obituary suggests that donations be made to a charity in lieu of sending flowers.

So this leading RV dealership is conducting a contest instead of providing customer appreciation.

The release also indicates the RV is being given away with no strings attached. It then goes on to list all the strings.

According to the release and rules, in order to become eligible for the “contest,” each person must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old
  2. Register online
  3. Completely fill out the giveway form by providing name, phone number and email address.
  4. Then “like” the company on Facebook — meaning that in order to enter, people must first have an active Facebook account. People who participate on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter can sit out this promotion.
  5. Then share a post on Facebook about their entry including a link to the giveway — meaning they have to spam their friends and family in order to participate.
  6. Then go to the dealership’s Facebook page and enter a comment indicating they complied with all the above.

That’s still not enough strings

On Aug. 31, the dealership will announce 100 names during a live event on its Facebook page. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg LOVES this type of free exposure!

Each of the people mentioned on the live broadcast will receive a free cooler. But, the winners better be listening in because the coolers have to be picked up THAT DAY. They won’t be shipped to winners, and they can’t pick up a cooler later.

Did I mention that Aug. 31 is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend?

So, if a family had plans to do anything over the holiday weekend, they better cancel them in order to listen to a live Facebook broadcast in hopes their name is announced so they can hop in a car and race over to an RV dealership to collect a free cooler.

Although a time for the live broadcast is not mentioned in the rules, let’s assume it is noon for reasons I’ll explain later. The dealership’s website notes the store closes on Saturdays at 5 p.m.

So not only should you listen live, you must be within a few hours of arriving at the dealership.

Really, what’s more important, spending the last weekend before school starts recreating with your kids, or sitting at home in front of a computer waiting to see if your name is called for some contest?

But, wait, there are more strings!

The “lucky” 100 people whose names are drawn on Aug. 31, must then visit the dealership again Sept. 21 — also a Saturday — for food, drinks and a special “greeting party” waiting for everyone that “was chosen to possibly win the free RV.”

Any bets the greeting party includes salespeople and a finance manager?

But, the contestants must arrive at the dealership by noon Sept. 21. If they don’t arrive by noon, they lose their eligibility to remain in the “contest.”

Since the dealership closes at 5 p.m., I suspect the greeting party will need the full five hours to console the 99 losers.

Once the 100 potential winners are registered, they are each given a key. One of the keys will unlock the new RV.

Let’s hope that all 100 people selected as finalists show up for the grand prize drawing. It would certainly look suspicious if 98 people showed up but the winning key wasn’t selected.

The winner of the RV must be present on the day of the drawing in order to claim the prize. I guess it doesn’t matter that everyone had to submit their name, phone number and email address just to enter the contest, giveaway or whatever it is called.

Again, do the finalists need to be present so the “greeting party” can console the losers?

But, wait, there are still more strings!

The leading dealership sent out a nationwide press release, but limited participation in the contest only to people who live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan. Residents of Indiana, which also borders Ohio, need not participate.

That begs the question how does the leading Ohio dealership expect someone who lives in State College, Pa.; Charleston, W.V.; Lexington, Ky., or Traverse City, Mich. to arrive at the business on the day their names are broadcast on Facebook in order to pick up their free cooler?

The finalists better hope Labor Day weekend traffic is minimal.

So, to summarize, in order to enter a “no strings attached” contest to win a free RV, each person entering must:

  • Fill out a form, provide contact information, spam their friends, and then interact with the firm via a Facebook post.
  • Then listen to a live Facebook broadcast on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to see if their name is called.
  • Then drive to the dealership that day to pick up a free cooler.
  • Then drive back to the dealership on another Saturday to pick up a key to see if it unlocks the door to a travel trailer.

Folks, this is why state governments are clamping down on contests like this.

In order to avoid any imperial entanglements, businesses conducting similar contests should probably get some professional advice that goes beyond the scheming of a public relations agency.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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