By purchasing the first spot after the Super Bowl's conclusion (instead of during the big game), Esurance saved about 30% on their ad spend, or $1.5 million. The commercial, starring John Krasinski, promised that Esurance would give away their $1.5 million in savings to one lucky winner who uses the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag on Twitter. The idea is genius. The giveaway went viral in an instant. The hashtag has been tweeted about 2.5 million times and was the number one trending topic in the country on Twitter. Great publicity and great communication of product messaging.
Pretty darn clever, Esurance. But no one will be walking away with a cool $1.5 million (without Esurance rigging the contest). The 'official rules' of the sweepstakes made it very unlikely that Esurance would have to pay up. Here's why:
1. Winners will be notified via direct message. In order to receive a DM from @Esurance, you have to be following them on Twitter. As I wrote this blog post, Esurance has only 164,000 followers. (They had about 8,900 followers prior to this contest.) This could be interpreted as follows: Out of the 2.5+ million entries, only 6.6% of them could possibly be notified. You need to follow @Esurance to win, and you need to check your direct messages.
2. You have a very small time frame to claim the prize. The winner will be notified at 2:45am PST on February 4th, and has until 1:00pm that same day to respond to the direct message to claim the prize. That's 10 hours and 15 minutes. And depending on what time zone you live in and what hours you work, that leaves you a very small window of time to claim the cash. If you live in Seattle and don't wake up until 7:52am, there goes half the time. If you are in a hurry to get ready for work and you have a job that doesn't afford you the luxury of checking Twitter, you had better go straight to your Twitter inbox during lunch. Oh, and you only have until 2:00pm PST to fill out all kinds of legal paperwork.
3. You have to have a public Twitter account to win. That means if you are part of the 11% of Twitter users that set their account to 'private,' Esurance will never see your Tweet in the first place.
4. After "trying" to give the prize away to 5 potential "winners," Esurance doesn't have to pay a penny. Read the fine print:
"Sponsor may only look to five (5) alternate winners, at which point the prize may be deemed unclaimed and Sponsor will have no further obligation with respect to the prize."
So if the randomly selected "winner" ( /the first 5 selected 'winners') isn't part of the 6% of contestants that are following Esurance on Twitter, if they don't check their direct messages, or if they are too busy during the small time frame that exists for claiming the prize, Esurance is off the hook.
5. Can't vote? Can't win. Sorry, kiddos. If you are under 18 years of age, you aren't eligible. That's around another 15% or so of entries that won't have a chance.
6. Esurance has to decide they like you. Entry into the sweepstakes constitutes your permission for Esurance to conduct a background check on you. It's Esurance's sole discretion to determine if awarding the prize to the winner "might reflect negatively on (the) Sponsor." This could mean if your background check reveals a drinking ticket you got in college, or if they find a goofy picture of you and your friends on social media, Esurance might deem you a barbarian who is unworthy of the prize.
I'm no statistician, but I would put the odds of Esurance giving away $1.5 million at less than the odds of the first score of the Super Bowl coming on a safety on the first play from scrimmage. They aren't exactly liars, but they certainly haven't created a contest that will have a winner. Don't get me wrong - this PR stunt was planned and executed to perfection. But as it turns out, the terms and conditions were calculated with equal cleverness.
See full rules here: http://www2.esurance.com/pdf/winbigrules.pdf
UPDATE: Esurance gave away the money. But I'm calling shenanigans on how they selected their winner. With the massive success and publicity that resulted from this stunt, maybe they decided they could afford to give away the money. And they feared angering millions of hopeful people if they didn't publicly award the money to someone. Further capitalizing on all the attention this contest has brought them, Esurance announced the winner on Jimmy Kimmel Live by staging a surprise and showing up at the winner's house. Some guy from San Francisco, which is where Esurance is headquartered... Seem fishy to anyone else? Oh, and they delievered the $1.5 million prize in CASH?! Please. Delivering the prize as cash would endanger the life of the winner and make for a very interesting trip to the bank. This is so obviously fake.
Esurance went from notifying the winner via direct message on Twitter to showing up at his house and surprising him. CROOKED. This was not a randomly selected "winner." Let's just hope this is Jimmy Kimmel punking us all again.