Judge for Yourself

Handling house visit is a real eye-opener

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I was thrilled when my request to report on what happens to a tiebreaker slogan competition, at a UK handling house, was accepted. And as I drove into the car park, I felt I knew the address as it was one to which I had mailed many a free prize draw and slogan competition.

I was excited to be able to experience what happens when our competition entries are received. Specifically, those where the task was to answer questions and then complete a tiebreaker sentence, in say, 10 words or less, for example, "I buy product from store because..."

Here, all the competition entries, after being delivered through the mail, are stored in a safe place until the closing date has passed. The number of entries received to each competition are recorded and this information given to the promoters.

Once an entry is opened, the qualifier, whether it be a till receipt, box top or label, and which was required as a condition of entering a skill based contest, is checked and all entries with the correct answers to the first part of the task are placed on one side for the next stage.

A number of entries would have been disqualified, due to some infringement of the rules, i.e. illegible writing, omission of qualifying till receipts and incorrect answers.

Where a tiebreaker slogan is involved, a percentage of entries will be discarded at the preliminary judging session.

Reasons may be that the tiebreaker slogan exceeds the allowed word limit, illegible entries, too many slogans are very similar or the slogan isn't considered good enough to reach the next stage.

Normally, two lists are drawn up. One containing the entrants names and addresses, the other, their tiebreaker slogans. A number is allocated to each entrant so that when the winner is chosen, their slogan can be matched up with their name and address. The latter list containing only numbered tiebreaker slogans being the one the judges will see.

The judging panel may consist of a representative from the manufacturer, the competition promoter or advertising agency, handling house personnel and independent professional people, perhaps totalling, three, five or seven.

The judges are given the criteria for the tiebreaker, including brief details of the product, the task and the word limit. They then study their list of tiebreakers and mark off any which they think are worthy of further consideration. Once this has been completed and a list of short-listed tiebreakers arrived at, they will discuss collectively each tiebreaker, reading these out aloud, to award an overall rating.

Now can you, and I certainly couldn't, imagine what 40,000 slogans on a computer printout look like? Can you visualise 40,000 entry forms? It's a real eye-opener!

At the close of the judging session, usually only a few tiebreakers will stand out as exceptional and the judges will place these in order of preference. The tiebreakers are then married up with the corresponding names and the prize winners informed. One of the independent judge's told me the best part was when they phoned the prize winner, and quickly learned to hold the phone at arms length, as many entrants shrieked with joy.

I wondered how other competition promoters, who handle their own competitions, judged them. I interviewed a representative from a leading product brand who handle their own competitions in-house, and he told me they open the entries as soon they arrive. They check for the inclusion of qualifiers and correct answers to the first part of the task, just as the handling house does, but instead of storing the entries in a safe until after the closing date, they undertake the preliminary judging on a daily basis.

As soon as they come across slogans they feel are eye-catching and worthy of further consideration, these are stored in a safe place. Then after the closing date, instead of the mammoth task of checking thousands of entry forms in one session, the preliminary judging has already taken place. This company do not use computer printouts, nor do they employ a handling house, preferring to handle the competition promotion and publicity themselves. They simply bundle the saved entry forms into piles of one hundred each and every judge works through several bundles of entry forms, placing each separate form into one of two piles, i.e. for further consideration or rejection.

Each judge then passes their pile of rejects to the next judge sitting on their right. This procedure is repeated, until every judge has seen each entry form. Only then, when the numbers of entries for the final judging stage are fewer, do they read them out loud, confer and decide upon a winner. Sometimes, my contact told me, an exceptional slogan is an outright winner. Other times the judges may have to take a vote on two or three contenders for first prize.

Whether on a computer print-out or on the entry form, a slogan stands on its own merit. It's as simple as that.

A perfect illustration of this was when myself and another well-known comper were on Granada TV to talk about the launch of our new books and were asked to judge a phone-in contest. As we were under pressure to come up with a winner in a short time scale, obviously we didn't have time to spend as long as we'd have liked to read the entries.

Ushered out to the phone-in room where several young ladies were busily writing the entrants name, telephone number and slogan onto separate pieces of paper, we were initially handed a bundle of around 500 entries.

Picture the scene. We held them between us to read them. Sometimes we both said `No' at the same time. Sometimes we said `yes we like that' and that entry was put on our `further consideration short list' pile. The fact is, and this is an important point for you to take on board and remember is, that we devoted a maximum TWO SECONDS for each entry.

We could tell, in that first `scanning of the slogan', whether it grabbed our attention or not. Although we put one attention-grabbing entry on the shortlist pile with other hopefuls, it was so brilliant and imaginative it was unanimously declared our outright winner. We went back to the studio, to announce our winner live on TV.

This feature was written by Lynne Suzanne in 2002.

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Lynne has helped many people to win fantastic prizes through her newspaper columns and books, and herself has won thousands of pounds worth of prizes including two cars and worldwide holidays. Lynne shares her secrets of success in her latest books: Win Cars Holidays and Prizes is packed full of prize winning advice and anecdotes, whilst Punch Lines has over 4,000 puns and word play, ideal for journalists and advertisers to create catchy taglines, headlines and copywriting.