WARNING: This is not a posting about iPhone Apps… its about digital media, contests, websites and… my son.

While I may be biased, I think my son has serious child model potential (don’t all parents?). When something like GAP’s Casting Call contest comes around (In conjunction with Disney Family), that allows parents to submit their kids to be the next GAP Kids model, I’m all over it. I figure… with a dad that’s a professional marketer… he just might have an edge.

Submitting Ethan was pretty straight forward. I expect when submitting a photo of a child online that will be posted to the world that there will be a number of forms to fill out, sign in blood, etc etc. No surprises here.

The GAP Casting Call contest however has a component that is the “Fan Favorite” competition – that is a voting contest where anyone coming to the site can vote for their favorites to help them advance. The prizes are pretty impressive (Fan Favorite gets a trip to Jamaica) and the competition is steep. Being that my son is seven years old, and a boy – I’ve resolved myself to the fact that it is very unlikely that he will win the overall fan favorite contest. That spot is traditionally held for baby girls with blond curls and dimples.

So why get votes? My thought is this: If Ethan gets the most (or even top 10) votes in his category, the judges will pay more attention to him when it comes to the judged component of the contest where he DOES have a chance to win. So – like any good marketer father, I start to post the link to all of my friends, relatives, business associates, neighbors, former high school girlfriends, second aunt of former high school girlfriends cousin…. well you get the picture.
It was only then I realized how convoluted the site is for people who are only trying to vote, and not trying to submit their own children.

Ethan K: Contestant ID: 49659097

Ethan K: Contestant ID: 49659097

If you click on the link (http://family.go.com/gapcastingcall/entries/ucshandiego/49659097/) it will take you to the lovely photo of my son taken by family friend Reza Molavi that has a button on the bottom that says “vote”.

Naturally – your first inclination when you see this handsome man is to hit vote, right?


If you hit vote. Your vote will not be counted.

You have to register first – and while the site takes you to a new page that has a login / register – it doesn’t tell you that the “vote” you just submitted didn’t actually happen. For those of you who have had enough coffee to realize this, you are now taken to the same registration page that contestants have to go through. Trust me… its lengthy.

“Disney made me certify that I read all 17 sections of the Terms of Use contained in the box above and agree with all of their terms. I am very concerned that I report to Miley Cyrus now.” – Jeff Foster, CEO, Foster Redmond

Once you register, you then have to find the child you were going to vote for. Since most of the people voting will know the child.. it makes sense that people would search for the childs name.


You have to search for the child’s number (Ethan’s is 49659097) or the parents nickname (Ethan’s mom submitted him, using he nickname UCShanDiego). No one of course is going to know this but you my faithful reader.

Once you have found him, (look familiar, its the same page you saw the first time you followed the link..) you can then click the same vote button you tried to click the first time. This time.. the vote should work. You’ll know because it thanks you and lets you know you can vote again tomorrow.

And please do….

Ethan REALLY REALLY want’s to go to NYC. It’s one of his dreams. Last month he actually packed a suitcase and almost made it out the door before we stopped him. Don’t think he quite realized how far away it was. So please, if you have enjoyed this blog, or any of my other posts, do me a favor and vote for my little man!

Okay.. back to iPhone marketing.

As part of the promotional mix, many iPhone apps have started using various sales promotions that include a number of different types of sweepstakes, contests and giveaways in order to drive downloads. While a sweepstakes or contest can be great for promoting your app, there are a few things to keep in mind.

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

One of the most common questions I get from app developers when it comes to these is “What is the difference between a sweepstakes, a contest and a lottery?” Why do they ask? Because a “lottery” has very strict rules and generally can only be legally operated by a state government. There are some legal loopholes when it come to Vegas and Indian Casinos, but as we are talking about iPhone apps here, that have national distribution (If not global – we will get to that in a minute) -you have to be legal across the country. Running an illegal lottery will quickly land you in front of a judge and you could be subject to some pretty heafty fines.

There are three components that we need to take a look at:

1. Prize

Does your promotion include some sort of prize? It can be monetary(Many apps give away iTunes gift cards), physical (some sort of actual gift), digital (software) or even experiential (some sort of experience that would be hard to get someplace else).

2. Chance

Is there some element of chance involved? This is opposed to a game of skill such as having to be the first person to beat a specific level of a game, answer a set of questions correctly or collect specific items from within your application.

3. Consideration

Consideration is a legal term which translates into: “I had to pay for it” (The lawyers will say “an undertaking in response to a promise”). Mind you that consideration is not always financial – it can mean an investment in time or effort as well. A great example is a car dealership that requires you to¬† “come in and test drive” to participate. Because you had to get to the dealership and probably spend gas money (or bus fare for you first time car buyers!), many courts would define that as consideration. There are ways around consideration however – which is where the infamous “No Purchase Necessary” comes into play. Just because there is a “paid ” method of playing, doesn’t mean there can’t be a free method as well. Often this comes in the form of a sent in 3×5 card or an online form. It doesn’t have to be easy (sure, hide the free online form deep in your site, I don’t care), but it has to be available and explained in the official rules.

So what happens when you have two of the three?

Prize + Chance: This is your typical sweepstakes. You enter, you have a chance to win. Pretty straight forward. What you do need to keep an eye out for is the monetary value of your prize. A few states require that prizes over a specific monetary value (often $500) require your prize to be bonded.

Prize + Consideration: Well… not to be blunt… but this just means you are selling something! You paid (consideration) for an item (Prize)

Chance + Consideration: Not really sure WHAT to call this other then, well, a donation.

Finally… what happens with you have all three?

A lawsuit.

Having all three makes you a lottery, of which is not allowed by anyone but the state.

Looking for help putting together a winning promotion? Give us a shout – we would be glad to help you out, following all applicable state laws of course!