Honda Dealer Gets Into Ad Accident

Printing Gaffe Causes Every Scratch-Off Card to Award Grand Prize

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It sure seemed as if Mr. Opportunity came knocking for residents of Roswell, N.M., last week. A lucky 30,000 of them received scratch-off tickets from their local Honda dealer that pronounced them all $1,000 grand-prize winners.
After blundering the promo, Force Media funded newspaper ads to explain the mistake to consumers.
After blundering the promo, Force Media funded newspaper ads to explain the mistake to consumers.

Except that potential $30 million payout was a printing error -- one that's forcing the agency behind the "Make an Offer" promotion to offer amends to would-be winners.

Jim Fitzpatrick, president of Force Media Group, Atlanta, said he knew within 15 minutes he had a problem with the Roswell Honda promotion his company handled. The dealership called him and said the first person who came in with a game piece last week had won the sole $1,000 grand prize, and called again 15 minutes later to say there were five more winners.

Mr. Fitzpatrick acted quickly to defuse a situation that will almost surely make the annals of famous promotions gone awry (see box). He pulled 20,000 still-undelivered pieces from the post office and flew two of his VPs to Roswell to speak to the client and its customers.

'Second Chance'
Force Media quickly added a few more steps in proofreading for both the company and its array of printers to avoid future gaffes, Mr. Fitzpatrick said. His family-owned company is eating the cost of the dealer's materials and covering a new "Second Chance" drawing. The 30,000 people who got the first mailing and went to the showroom with it have the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize or one of 20 chances to win $1,000.

Force also funded full-page ads for three days in the local newspaper explaining the mistake.

Tom Krumland, owner of the dealership, did not return calls for comment.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said Force does 30 million pieces of mail a year for auto dealers. "This typo error is probably going to cost us some business."

Other promo disasters

Marketer: Hoover
Screwup: In a remarkable 2002 promotion fiasco, Hoover's U.K. operation offered two free tickets (worth $700-plus) to the U.S. to anyone buying a vacuum for more than £100 (about $150). More than 150,000 people bought the vacuums and qualified for tickets.

Cost: Hoover's then-parent, Maytag Corp., spent $73 million from 2002 to 2004 to cover the botched promo.

Marketer: Kraft Foods
Screwup: In 1989, the food behemoth had a printing error in a game promotion called "Ready to Roll.'' Too many winning game pieces were printed.

Cost: Kraft in 1991 agreed to pay $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. Under the settlement, the marketer gave $700 in cash and coupons to each of 10,000 consumers who thought they'd won a $17,000 Dodge minivan.
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