There are consumers out there for whom the world of contests, competitions and giveaways is their playground. With hard work and persistence, and a little good fortune they can enrich their lives by turning a box top or postage stamp into a year’s supply of dog food or a trolley-dash through Pets at Home. At the top of the profession, an exclusive minority can be found flying first class, scoffing in Michelin starred restaurants and irradiating themselves on tropical beaches in gated resorts, all at no cost to themselves. Online tools are easily available to search for opportunities and all that’s required is an unshakeable faith in the disinterested generosity of big business and a bulk supply of postage stamps.
These examples are drawn from my mid-century data dump - they have a certain rough charm with their basic, shouty graphics, designed to lift the ads off the page and capture the attention of the ever-hopeful consumer on the lookout for free stuff. New cars are the most frequent offer but a refrigerator stuffed with dollar bills is an arresting prospect that could tempt even the most sober reader. No proof of purchase required and only four statements to be deemed true or false - just spare a thought for the unhappy citizens of Nebraska and New Jersey whose state laws prohibit their participation in this bonanza. Inflation note: the contents of the fridge in 1959 would have to be uprated to $220,000 to maintain the buying power. In cryptocurrency this equates to 23 bitcoins (as at May 2020). How to store bitcoins in a fridge is another problem. Not everything is a sweepstake - sometimes there’s a test of skill where some linguistic agility could come in handy. Completing a sentence on the merits of Ivory Flakes must win the judge’s approval with wordplay or internal rhyming. Another popular task is to bestow a name upon the progeny of a brand character (Borden’s) or find a name for a little sleepyhead (Englander beds).
The most ingenious offer comes courtesy of Remington Shavers - the chance to become your own personal fund manager and launch yourself on Wall Street where unlimited wealth could be yours for the taking. The lucky winner could choose their own share stocks to the value of the sum of a single share in every quoted company on the New York Stock Exchange as at May 31st. 1957. 1957 turned out to be a bear market with a marked decline in stock values. But anyone who chose to invest $1,000 in the newly launched Disney shares would be 3 million dollars better off by 2019.