Susan Vogt practises marketing law at the Toronto offices of Gowling, Strathy & Henderson....

Susan Vogt practises marketing law at the Toronto offices of Gowling, Strathy & Henderson.

Gambling addicts have a new place to go where the odds are good and the chairs are easy. There’s a lot of action on the Internet these days – everything from high-stakes betting sites to run-of-the-mill consumer promotions.

I won’t deal with the former because they’re (a) illegal, (b) about-to-be illegal or (c) highly regulated – and the "house", so to speak, is probably in the Caymans. What interests me more is the online profusion of sweepstakes, where the winners are determined by chance, and "skill" competitions, where essays, photos, and so on, are judged on the basis of effort and skill.

It seems that the majority of Web sites these days feature contests as a running attraction or occasional feature. Small wonder when you consider how contests can draw consumers to your site and keep them coming back. In addition, many promotions conducted in the bricks-and-mortar world now have an online component.

So the question arises: Are there different legal rules for online contests? Yes and no. There are certainly distinct requirements when it comes to online contest rules.

First of all, make sure that you limit your universe. Unless you intend to comply with worldwide contest laws, the first and most prominent rule should be: "Contest restricted to residents of Canada." It is tempting and certainly feasible to open your contest to the millions of potential participants in the United States. But if this is your plan, your contest rules should be reviewed by a U.S. lawyer and registered in the several states (such as Florida and New York) that have Quebec-style registration requirements. This will take time and money – an additional $10,000, at least.

The second and equally important rule is to limit your exposure if the system crashes, or a bug, virus or other beast interferes with the conduct of your contest. A properly drafted Internet clause will add at least 100 words to your rules. This is space well used. Nobody knows just how badly an Internet contest can implode. Protect yourself by disclaiming responsibility for hackers, acts of God and other calamities. The disclaimer should cover system malfunctions that interfere with the contest as well as liability for any damage caused to a user’s system by participating in the contest.

Third, you need to be specific about the deadline for entry. Traditional contests specify a date. Online contests should specify the date, the time and the time zone – for example, 11:59 p.m. (EST), May 31, 2000.

Fourth, you need to restrict the number of entries per person or e-mail address, and make sure that your software accommodates this restriction. Internet addicts, left to their own devices, could flood your system with multiple entries. In addition, the rules should include a clause that states that e-mail entries will be deemed to be submitted by the holder of the e-mail account. That way, any disputes about who submitted an online entry can be easily resolved.

Fifth is the tricky question of a "purchase requirement" – prohibited, in most cases, in both the United States and Canada. Is Internet participation a per se purchase requirement because participants must pay for Internet access? We don’t have a definitive answer to that one yet.

Equally problematic: Are the long questionnaires that accompany many online contests a "purchase" requirement? Legally, you cannot require contestants to (a) spend money or (b) expend unreasonable efforts to enter your contest. So questionnaires that are tied to contest entry should be short and relatively simple.

There is no Canadian ruling as to whether you need an alternate "no purchase" means of entry for online contests. I’d have to say probably not. American regulators, who are generally stricter in this regard than their Canadian counterparts, have decided that Internet-only contests are legal. Nonetheless, if you make participation difficult or time consuming, there is a danger that this will be considered a de facto purchase requirement.

Finally, if your contest is complicated or involves unusual requirements, consider including a "Submit" button by which participants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by the contest rules before they enter the contest.

And nota bene: All of these rules are in addition to the usual contest requirements. The Criminal Code, the Competition Act and Quebec’s lottery legislation apply in cyberspace. So you still need a skill-testing question, the Régie clause and all the other conditions, qualifications and legal disclaimers that are found in normal contest rules.

Susan Vogt can be reached by phone at (416) 862-5439 or by e-mail at

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

A director of interactive production for Zulubot is among dozens of new faces and roles at the agency, in response to recent wins.
Zulu Alpha Kilo_New Zuligans

Toronto indie shop Zulu Alpha Kilo had made several new hires and promotions on the heels of new business and also organic growth from existing clients.

Zulu could not officially announce the account wins at this time.

However, it can report that Ece Inan, most recently at Toronto design and tech shop Array of Stars, has been named the agency’s new director of interactive production for Zulubot, the agency’s production arm. In the new role, Inan will lead AR, VR, voice and other digital innovation projects.

Also on the production side, James Graham, who has spent the last 17 years with Grip, has joined the agency as its studio director.

Zulu has also made numerous additions on the client services side, led by Michael Brathwaite, also from Grip, as account director.

It’s also announced a spate of new account supervisors, including Hayley Blackmore (from G Adventures), Risa Kastelic (from BT/A), Kara Oddi (also from BT/A), Emily Anzarouth (also from Grip), Chris Rosario (from FCB/Six) and Sarah Shiff (from Rethink).

In addition to the new hires (pictured above), the agency has also announced several promotions: Alyssa Guttman moves from account director to group account director, while Nina Bhayana, Michelle Fournier, Jenn Gaidola-Sobral and Erin McManus have all been promoted to account director, and Haley Holm to account supervisor. On the strategy team, strategists Carly Miller and Spencer MacEachern have both been promoted to strategy director, while Shaunagh Farrelly, who has been with Zulu for two years in a client service role, moves into a new role as a digital strategist.

In December, the shop also announced that Stephanie Yung would be returning to the agency after a stint in New York as its head of design. Recent wins the agency has been able to announce including work as AOR for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a new arrangement with existing client Consonant Skincare, setting up an in-house team to support growth after taking an equity stake in the company.

Zulu president Mike Sutton says it’s wonderful, in a new year, to welcome new faces and energy to the team and says the agency is fortunate to have had so many people across the agency step up to support its clients.

“Simply put, they were rock stars, and the promotions are very well deserved,” Sutton says.