The prize draw strategy – a staple marketing technique used by Reader’s Digest for many years – has been exposed in an investigation by BBC One’s Rip Off Britain.
The programme told the story of an 87-year old war veteran, who regularly bought books from the company and felt compelled to buy even more by the wording of the prize draw offer, which, it was claimed, made it sound highly likely that he would win.
His daughter had become so concerned at his spending spree that she contacted the Advertising Standards Authority, which is considering launching its own investigation – although only if Reader’s Digest is found to have “implied” the customer has actually won the prize.
In a statement Reader’s Digest said: “It is not our intention to raise unrealistic expectations, and all our mailings meet regulatory requirements.”
The company added that it would take the complaints “in mind” when reviewing how it contacts its customers, although, as this strategy has been employed for decades sources doubt this will happen.
One industry insider said: “This is the dichotomy of Reader’s Digest. On one hand it purports to be a trusted brand; on the other it is using dubious tactics to get money off people.”
The accusation builds on growing concerns over prize-draw promotions, normally associated with illegal scam mail, which led to the creation of the ‘Think Jessica’ campaign, named after one victim who spent her life savings on entering such competitions.
Reader’s Digest has had a turbulent time of late, despite rescuing itself from bankruptcy in the US, its UK operation has not been without its problems.
The publisher has struggled to stabilise its senior management team since the buyout last April – numerous senior executives involved in the original deal have since left, and in July it named Thierry Bouzac as its third chief executive in the space of a year, following the departure of David Titmuss. In January, it revealed it was taking on the DM services sector with the launch of a direct marketing division, offering creative, data and delivery.
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