Promotional marketing: Instant wins

Jan 13th '23

Instant-win promotions are prize draws in which participants are given their winnings straight after entry or know immediately whether or not they have won. Instant-win promotions can include golden ticket type promotions, in which the prize is pre-allocated to specific products or their packaging, or ‘winning moment’ promotions in which a prize is allocated to a pre-determined time, and anyone who enters at that time wins the allocated prize.


Committee of Advertising Practice  (CAP) Code states that “Participants in instant-win promotions must get their winnings at once or must know immediately what they have won and how to claim without delay, cost or administrative barriers. Instant-win tickets, tokens or numbers must be awarded on a fair and random basis and verification must take the form of an independently audited statement that all prizes have been distributed, or made available for distribution, in that manner.”


To comply with the Code promoters of instant-wins must:


  • Avoid delays and be clear on the entry process
  • Do not exaggerate the changes of winning
  • Award prizes randomly
  • Include all significant conditions
  • Explain how prizes are allocated
  • Don’t have a cost to claim
  • Consider other relevant guidance


  • Avoid delays and be clear on the entry process

Promoters should be aware that any delay in consumers finding out whether they have won could breach the Code. The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) long-standing position is that describing a promotion as ‘instant-win’ on pack is likely to mislead if the consumer has to go online or do anything else such as fill in a form, to find out if they’ve won. This information is also likely to be considered a significant condition.


In 2015 the ASA ruled against an on-pack promotion which referred to “instant win prizes” on the front but in fact required people to register online and enter their details. Text on the back of the pack suggested that simply entering the code would be sufficient to find out whether an entrant had won a prize, but they had to register and provide personal information before entering the code. This information was considered significant and its omission misleading (Kettle Foods Ltd, 16 September 2015).


If entrants need to go online to find out if they’ve won, claims such as ‘enter your code online to find out instantly if you’ve won’ or ‘online instant-win’ are likely to be considered acceptable.


If entrants find out instantly that they have won (for example on opening the pack) and then go online to claim their prize, calling the promotion an “instant-win” would be appropriate.


  • Don’t exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning

Advertising rules state that “promoters must not exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning prizes”.


The ASA has investigated multiple winning moment instant-win promotions which used algorithms online to select winners, resulting in only a small proportion of the advertised prizes being awarded. Ads which state that many prizes are available, when only a small number of those prizes are likely to be awarded due to the mechanism of the promotion, may mislead consumers by exaggerating the number of prizes which will be won, and therefore consumers’ chances of winning.


In this kind of promotion, the ad must include information to clarify to the consumer how likely they are to win, for example by explaining the winner selection mechanism and the number of prizes which are likely to be awarded. The ASA investigated a promotion which advertised “£3 million of prizes available”, but in which only 0.56% of those prizes were awarded. The ASA acknowledged that that the mechanic itself was not necessarily problematic however, because the likelihood of winning a prize (and therefore the number of prizes that were won) was so extremely low, the overall impression created by the package significantly exaggerated the likelihood that consumers would win the prizes. It ruled that the ads should have given a realistic indication of the chances of winning to ensure that consumers could make an informed decision on whether participation was worthwhile (McCain Foods Ltd, 11 July 2018).


Information about the winning moments mechanism of a promotion should be given sufficient prominence to ensure that consumers can easily see it. This information should be clearly connected to the main claim, and it is unlikely to be acceptable to include this information more than one step away from the headline. The ASA considered that the headline “WIN A MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION. 100 AVAILABLE TO BE WON EVERY DAY*”, which appeared on-pack, was likely to give consumers the impression that all, or at least the majority, of those prizes would be won. In reality only 10% of these were won throughout the promotional period. Small print on the back of the pack two steps away from the main claim stated “4,200 prizes available to be won in total. 100 winning moments available per day, each as 30 seconds slots only when the prize is available. These winning moments have been randomly allocated each day for 42 days”. However, the ASA considered that, because this information was so important to consumers’ understanding of the chances of winning, it had not been presented with sufficient prominence (Nestlé UK Ltd, 08 January 2020).


  • Award prizes randomly

Advertising rules state that “Instant-win tickets, tokens or numbers must be awarded on a fair and random basis and verification must take the form of an independently audited statement that all prizes have been distributed, or made available for distribution, in that manner.”.


Promoters must ensure that they can demonstrate that instant-win prizes, whether included in product packaging or allocated to winning moments, are awarded on a fair and random basis, and must be able to provide an independently audited statement to verify that this was the case. Members of staff are unlikely to be considered independent.


  • Include all significant conditions

Advertising rules state that “all marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead” and provides a non-exhaustive list of the type of information which is likely to be considered significant.


In practice, this means that all ads for promotions must clearly state any information which could affect a consumer’s decision on whether or not to participate. For further information about significant conditions and how these should be presented, please see Promotional marketing: terms and conditions.


Many instant-win promotions are advertised on-pack. If running an on-pack promotion, the significant conditions must be included on the outside of the packaging, so that these can be seen before purchase. The ASA upheld complaints about an instant-win promotion because the packaging did not make clear that consumers could only enter once. Although text on the inside of the outer sleeve did state this term, the ASA considered that most consumers would be unlikely to remove the sleeve until after purchasing the product. Because participants may have purchased multiple products with the intention of entering multiple times, this term should have been clearly stated on the outside of the packaging (Bighams Ltd, 30 March 2022).


  • Explain how prizes are allocated

In some cases, for example, winning moment promotions in which the chances of winning are relatively low in comparison to the number of prizes advertised, information about how prizes are allocated is likely to affect a consumer’s decision about whether to participate. If this is the case, this information will be considered significant, and must be clearly included in the ad. The ASA upheld a complaint about a winning moments promotion because the ad did not make it clear how prizes were allocated or awarded, or manage participant’s expectations of the likelihood of them winning.  The ad stated “Enter online “instant” win at & enter details, bottle batch code and time stamp”, but did not make clear that prizes were only allocated to a winner if someone entered their details at exactly the same second as was randomly selected by a computer, and that the number of prizes allocated would be significantly lower than the 10,000 advertised. The ASA considered that this information was likely to significantly influence a consumer’s decision to participate in the promotion. Whilst the full terms and conditions were available on the website, because this was significant information, it should have been included on the label (Highland Spring Ltd, 11 July 2018).


  • Don’t require a cost to claim

Advertising rules state that “Promoters must not claim the consumer has already won, will win or will on doing a particular act win a prize (or other equivalent benefit) if the consumer must incur a cost to claim the  prize (or other equivalent benefit) or if the prize (or other equivalent benefit) does not exist.”. There must be no cost to claim a prize. The ASA upheld complaints against a promotion which required consumers to ring a premium rate service to claim an award because, although the cost was stated, ad rules prohibits promotions where consumers incur a cost to claim a prize or equivalent benefit (Churchcastle Ltd t/a Spencer & Mayfair, 20 February 2013).


  • Check all relevant guidance

Promoters should also review the promotional marketing section of the CAP Code (Section 8), and additional relevant guidance:



Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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