Analyzing the Esurance Contest

Right after the Super Bowl, a clever ad for Esurance ran.1 By purchasing a commercial after the game rather than during it, the company supposedly saved 30%, the same amount they claim they can save customers on their car insurance. To promote these savings, Esurance decided to give away the $1.5 million dollars they’d saved in buying the cheaper ad. To enter, spokesman John Krasinski said, all you had to do was tweet their hashtag “#EsuranceSave30”. Predictably, Twitter blew up with tweets mentioning Esurance and their hashtag, resulting in heaps of free publicity. Even cynical Twitter users joined in:

Enter as often as you want! Each entry must be an individual Tweet using hashtag #EsuranceSave30. Someone's made a bot by now, right?

That quote comes from a summary of the contest’s rules, which are of course more detailed than what the brief commercial mentions. Esurance posted the official rules on their site2, as well as a simplified FAQ3. That FAQ is both revealing, and amusing.

Key Passages From the Esurance Contest FAQ

1. How do I enter?
To enter, you’ll need a Twitter account, Internet access and a valid email address. Once you have a Twitter account, all you have to do is post or “Tweet” on Twitter the following hashtag: #EsuranceSave30. That’s it!

7. Do I need to follow Esurance on Twitter to win?
Yes. If you win, Esurance will need to send you a private Twitter message with instructions on what to do next.

This is both contradictory and rather important. The answer to second question there indicates that tweeting the hashtag was actually not enough to win the contest. Though it was never mentioned in the ad, the FAQ states that if you didn’t also follow @Esurance, you couldn’t win. However, the official rules contradict (and supersede) this:

In addition, eligible entrants could follow @Esurance on Twitter so that Sponsor can direct message you in the event that you are selected as the potential winner but this is not required.

So, it seems that item number 7 in the FAQ is flat-out wrong. It would have been much more amusing if it had been correct, comically leading to millions of utterly wasted tweets.

2. How often can I enter?
You can enter as often as you want! Just remember that each entry must be an individual Tweet using the hashtag #EsuranceSave30.

Here the FAQ indicates that each and every tweet containing the hashtag is an entry into the contest, and it’s what prompted my own tweet. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing, so having more entries is sure to up your chances of winning. That said, the official rules do state:

Entries that are generated by a macro, bot, or other automated means will not be accepted and will be void.

If Esurance caught on, a bot would be eliminated. Still, it would certainly be possible to design a reasonably lifelike bot that could avoid disqualification. Alternately, a bored or desperate human could simply spend the contest’s 36 hours tweeting, for a pre-tax salary of either $41,667 an hour or $0 an hour.

18. What happens if Twitter does not deliver my Tweet to the sweepstakes?
Though we hope this doesn’t happen to you, we can’t be responsible for any changes or unavailability of the Twitter service that may interfere with the sweepstakes. If you think your Tweet did not go through, try again!

This one effectively says “If you think your tweet might not have gone through, just send another one”. And hey, why not mention our name nine more times, just to be safe? And then another three? Thanks for shilling!

19. What happens if Twitter is temporarily unavailable due to high level of activity when I try to Tweet?
For purposes of this sweepstakes, only entries that are recorded through Twitter’s servers will be entered into the Sweepstakes. If Twitter is temporarily unavailable, we recommend trying again later. Keep trying!

Who knew a fail whale could be so costly?

22. Who can enter the Sweepstakes?
The sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of any of the 48 contiguous United States or the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years of age at the time of entry and age of majority in their state of residence unless excluded in the Official Rules.

Suck it, Alaska and Hawaii!

26. If I’m currently serving overseas in the US Military overseas, can I enter?
To win the grand prize, you must be physically located in the 48 contiguous US states or the District of Columbia. But be sure to tell your family back home to enter!

Ouch. Suck it, active-duty military? That’s pretty low.

27. Why do you need to conduct a background check on the winner?
The background check…may…be used to determine if the unofficial winner…has not participated in any behavior that is obnoxious, inappropriate, threatening, and illegal or that is intended to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person and will reflect negatively on or embarrass the Sponsor’s brand in planned media and publicity activities.

The way this is phrased (“determine if…the winner has not”) would actually seem to indicate they’re looking to make sure the winner is an embarrassment of some kind. Come to think of it, maybe they are. Eliminating everyone who could possibly shame Esurance is likely to leave you with an empty pool of candidates. Humanity, you guys. It’s pretty awful.

28. Does the background check include a credit check?

29. Will the background check affect my credit rating?
No, because it does not include a credit check, the background check will not affect your credit.

No matter what your current financial situation is, if you win a million and a half bucks, having a check run on your credit is really not going to be an issue. Who felt this needed to be not one, but two, of the “Frequently Asked Questions”?

30. If I win, what tax documents will I need? If you win (hooray!), you’ll need to complete an IRS W-9 document. Please note that if you win, you’ll be responsible for all taxes and other expenses related to the prize and will receive a 1099 declaring the prize amount in January 2015 for the 2014 tax year.

I appreciate the enthusiasm of this FAQ, but really, are people concerned about the taxes before they even win? This whole thing could have been trimmed to about a page.


Esurance has clearly done well with this ad. Their commercial is one of the most talked about after the Super Bowl, and their name is everywhere. Did they get an extra $1.5 million dollars of publicity from this? Absolutely. Heck, the coverage from this blog alone is probably worth at least that much.4

Unfortunately, the rest of us didn’t do quite so well. Unless you’re “John from Northern California”, you didn’t win $1.5 million bucks from Esurance. But if you are John from Northern California, hey, thanks for reading!5 Maybe click that Shop at Amazon link in the sidebar before you go nuts buying things on Amazon? Thanks!


  1. Archived here. ↩︎

  2. Archived here. ↩︎

  3. Also archived. ↩︎

  4. Note to Esurance: Advertising rates for this site are negotiable. ↩︎

  5. Also, John from Northern California, ah man, you blew it! If you’re given the chance on live TV to tell someone, anyone to go to hell, you take it! A million and a half bucks is nice and all, but that’s priceless.↩︎