Online contests are a great idea that is promoting creativity and proactive participation. They are also giving sponsors a great platform for roping in the masses for some significant brain-storming and product promotion at a cost that is negligible when compared to the costs needed for even a modest print campaign.

But this post isn’t about the relevance of online contests in the great online rush that is so evident today. This post is all about the scams and the intrigue that has entered (and quite expectedly too) the arena. Let me take up just one case here.

timesdeal_fb page

timesdeal_fb page

Case: Timeadeal short-story and timesphrase contest on Facebook and Twitter.

This contest had two parts… the first where contestants were to write a short-story of around 100 words with six pre-decided words featuring in it. The story had to be creative and ‘beyond the obvious’. The second part was to send tweets with the five specified words and it had to be a selling tweet.

To give you an example, the tweets sent by me were:

@TimesDealindia with #TimesDealPhrase #Contest Fitness, travel, and beauty matter! Shopping and discounts matter! Everything at Timesdeal! 

@TimesDealindia with #TimesDealPhrase #Contest Use timesdeal for discount vouchers on fitness, travel, beauty, and become a shopping wizard! 

@TimesDealindia with #TimesDealPhrase #Contest Fitness on discount cannot travel with a beauty unless timesdeal is used for shopping!

The stories that I had sent can be read in this post.

When they announced the winner for the 100-word short story, I first went and read what this person had written. To my mind what he had written was nothing but a short promotional message. Read it:

timesdeal_winning story

timesdeal_winning story

To my mind, the ‘winner’ in this case hadn’t written a short story at all. The next thing I did was to go to the Facebook page of the winner. No, I wasn’t surprised to find that the page had nothing at all there. Even the ‘About’ section was a blank. It appeared as if this person was asked to create an FB profile in a rush so that he could be given whatever prize Timesdeal had earmarked for him. I wondered if this was a new and innovative approach for handing out kick-backs for underhand deals!

timesdeal_winner's fb profile

timesdeal_winner’s fb profile

Did Timesdeal gain anything from what appears to be another online contest scam? No, they just lost a few people who may have actually liked transacting business there.

The questions that I toyed with are:
Is this just a case of shoddy judgement?
Is there something more than what is actually visible?
Is it just the online media agency of Timesdeal acting smart?
Has Timesdeal gained anything from this rubbish decision-making?

I have no idea where the truth lies, because all I know is that Timesdeal has lost a fair amount of credibility. The only premise where the winner can be justified is if the timesdeal guys admit that anything written in their favour is ‘beyond the obvious’… which, in effect, means that they are a site out to fool the masses!

It is vital, therefore, for companies to read this case and remember to:

  1. Engage only a reliable and responsible media agency
  2. Monitor the agency’s output and what they are doing very often
  3. Be very sure of contest judgements as they can make or mar your online image
  4. Follow the parameters for a contest laid out for the participants
  5. Never think that the people who are online are dolts who will accept anything that is wrong or misrepresents the truth
I know I will not be bothered about timesdeal now…
timesdeal_story was to have a 'beyond the obvious' element

timesdeal_story was to have a ‘beyond the obvious’ element

timesdeal prize

timesdeal prize


Arvind Passey
25 July 2012