Tylenol Manufacturer To Amend Sweepstakes Ads

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with the manufacturer of Tylenol that will require the company to stop running advertisements which make it appear that a consumer must purchase the product in order to enter the company's sweepstakes.

Pennsylvania-based McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals Division of McNeil-PPC, Inc.("McNeil") settled allegations that its advertisements violated consumer protection laws by making it appear that a purchase of Tylenol was necessary to enter the "Survivor All-Stars - Tylenol Push Through the Pain Game." Under state law, consumers must be given an opportunity to enter and win a sweepstakes even if they do not purchase a product.

McNeil conducted a recent sweepstakes offering a trip to the season finale of the television program "Survivor" as the grand prize. Newspaper and magazine advertisements promoting the sweepstakes contained large, bold print directing the reader to "Buy Tylenol" as the first in a series of steps leading to a chance to win the grand prize. By contrast, the words "No Purchase Necessary" appeared in fine print at the bottom of the advertisements.

Similarly, the voice-over in advertisements broadcast on the CBS television network stated: "For your chance to win just buy any Tylenol product." In addition, a large colorful visual display prompted viewers to buy a Tylenol product to enter the sweepstakes. However, the voice-over failed to state that no purchase is necessary, and the printed words "No Purchase Necessary" appeared only briefly in the advertisements, in small type at the bottom of the screen.

Although it was possible for consumers to enter the sweepstakes without making a purchase, by logging on to the CBS web site, approximately 84% of the people who ultimately entered the sweepstakes had purchased a Tylenol product.

Pursuant to the settlement, MacNeil

  • shall not make any express or implied representation in its advertisements that a consumer must purchase a product in order to enter a sweepstakes;
  • shall not make any express or implied representation in its advertisements that a consumer will have a greater chance of winning a sweepstakes if they purchase a product;
  • shall clearly and conspicuously disclose in its advertisements that no purchase is necessary to enter a sweepstakes;
  • in any advertisement which refers to the purchase of a product as a means of entering a sweepstakes, shall clearly and conspicuously and with equal prominence to the language that refers to the product purchase, disclose the availability of alternate methods of entry that do not require a purchase.

McNeil, which had ended the advertising campaign prior to entering into the settlement with the Attorney General, also agreed to pay $52,000 in civil penalties and costs.

The settlement with McNeil is the third in a recent series of sweepstakes-related enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General's office. CVS Corporation and The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc., d/b/a A&P Food Stores settled allegations that they failed to provide sweepstakes entry procedures for customers who did not purchase items from their stores.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Doris K. Morin under the supervision of Gary S. Brown, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.

Consumers can obtain information regarding sweepstakes tips on the Attorney General's web site at www.ag.ny.gov. To file a complaint about a sweepstakes, individuals are directed to call the consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.