Consumers: Beware of spurious contestsConsumer protection...


January 23, 1993|By Michael Dresser

Consumers: Beware of spurious contests

Consumer protection authorities warn that the mails are flooded at this time of year with spurious contests, sweepstakes and other awards offerings that piggyback on the popularity of legitimate sweepstakes such as Publishers Clearing House.

One ruse that popped up recently is a "contest" offering a cash prize for answering questions correctly. The catch: Contestants are required to send a "judging fee" along with their mailing.

In December, the Maryland attorney general's office moved to issue a cease-and-desist order against Honeywell & Roberts Inc., a Las Vegas firm that operates a contest it calls "Millionaire's Treasure."

The game offers a $10,000 prize to the winner of a "skill puzzle" contest consisting of three rounds of questions. The first question is: Which of the following is not a flower? Carnation. Daisy. Sparrow. Rose.

The judging fee is $5, and the mailing offers "rush priority processing" for an extra $2.

The attorney general's office charged that contestants who sent in the $5 judging fee were then dunned for an additional judging fee of $20 for subsequent rounds. Requiring payment to collect a prize violates Maryland law.

Pam Herring, who identified herself as Honeywell & Roberts' supervisor for customer service, denied any knowledge of the cease-and-desist order, but said the company had recently stopped mailings into Maryland. She denied the Millionaire's Treasure contest was a lottery.

The Millionaire's Treasure contest is not the only one of its kind. A virtually identical contest is being run by another Las Vegas group that calls itself Awards Bureau of America.

At Awards Bureau, a woman who gave her name as Mary Lou said the company's contest was a "game of skill."

Jacqueline Mintz, a Maryland assistant attorney general, said the ZTC state consumer protection office was aware of the company's activities but had not taken any action.

John Brugger, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the company was under investigation.

mamma ilardo's gets bigger slice of the pie

It's been a good month for mamma ilardo's Corp., the Owings Mills pizzeria chain. Not only has it landed a sweet deal with Hersheypark, a Las Vegas gamble appears to have paid off.

Joseph Simone, chief executive of the aggressively expanding chain, said mamma ilardo's signed a lease this week with the Hershey, Pa., theme park to open a 1,600-square-foot pizza stand just inside the park entrance. He said Hersheypark also will serve mamma ilardo's pizza in its own restaurants, making it the "official pizza" of the theme park.

The Pennsylvania deal is expected to bring in $650,000 to $700,000 a year, Mr. Simone said, but the company could be looking at an even bigger payoff in Nevada.

Mr. Simone said MGM Grand, a gargantuan hotel, casino sports center and theme park under construction in Las Vegas, has chosen mamma ilardo's to run a pizza stand at the 36-acre theme park. That deal could yield an estimated $2.5 million, Mr. Simone said.

The Hersheypark unit will be franchised, while the MGM Grand pizzeria will be company-owned, he said. Mr. Simone said mamma ilardo's will continue to follow a strategy of expanding by opening units in nontraditional locations such as schools and sports arenas. "You can't wait for the malls," he said.

Gillette to unveil line of men's toiletries

The Gillette Co., seeking to repeat the success of its 1990 launch of the Sensor razor, will return to the Super Bowl for the kickoff of a marketing campaign for a new line of men's toiletries called the Gillette Series.

The $125 million international campaign, the most expensive Gillette has undertaken, will start with ads aired during the pro football championship between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills on Jan. 31.

The Gillette Series, three years in development at a cost of $75 million, includes shaving creams, shaving gels, deodorants and after shave lotions -- 14 products in all, including 12 that will be sold in North America. The products are notable for their striking package design, a silver and electric blue color scheme that echoes the high-tech look of the Sensor.

The ad campaign will build on the company's "Gillette: The Best a Man Can Get" theme. That campaign has been used since 1989 as part of a strategy to bolster what already is one of the most powerful brand names in the global consumer products industry.

Baltimore ad agency receives five awards

Trahan Burden & Charles Inc., the Baltimore ad agency, collected five awards this week for its work for clients in the travel and hospitality industries.

The agency won two gold Adrian awards from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association, one for its work for Harrah's Casino Hotels and another for an ad for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The aquarium award honored a billboard ad that showed a sign painter sitting atop the board with legs raised as a school of piranha ate away the board. The headline "Our Piranha Exhibit is Open Daily."

TB&C picked up silver awards for two other ads for the aquarium, as well as a third silver for its Air Travel Card campaign.

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