Employing people that are better than you is a clever idea, but difficult to do
Jeremy Stern is the Chief Executive of PromoVeritas, the Harrow based business behind some of the biggest prize promotions in the UK and beyond. They ensure that prize draws, competitions and instant wins are run legally, fairly and securely.
Jeremy Stern set up PromoVeritas in 2002. Up to that point, he’d followed the traditional path of a career marketer: a graduate traineeship at Unilever followed by successful roles at Kenco, BT, and MBNA Credit Cards before joining Coca-Cola as European Promotions Director. By his early forties he had ‘been there and done that’ in just about every sector.
How it started
He says: “A lot of people are classic entrepreneurs. They meet at university, have an internship or two and then set up a company from a pub. They have never gone up the management ladder. My trajectory was very different, very traditional.
“That said, I had always ‘dabbled’ in raw business. When I was 11 or 12 and on holiday in France, I bought a set of bangers. I brought them back to school, and everyone loved them, so I got my French pen pal to send me more of them and I sold them at three times the cost price. All was going well until Customs and Excise took a closer look at one of my parcels and advised me to stop importing explosives without a permit! So instead, I went on to run the school tuck shop, which proved a far safer enterprise”.
The idea for his new business came from the realisation that many prize promotions were being operated and run badly. All the focus was on the front end, the headline, the advertising, and very little on the back end. Winners of a draw might be selected by the office secretary or entries to competitions may not be properly judged. All this a financial and a serious reputational risk for companies. Every entry deserves an equal chance of winning. Without a robust system in place and independent oversight, brand owners could be accused of fraud, theft, misleading the consumer, false advertising or just gaming the system.
He says: “So I conceived of the idea of an independent promotional compliance service. Someone who would take away the hard work and risk out of promotions and put in the fairness and the due diligence. I set the business up in 2002 in the back room of my house and made calls to everyone I knew and slowly I began to gain a few bits of business”. The name PromoVeritas came to him like a lightning bolt, and is latin for Truth in Promotions, a fair reflection of their purpose.
The business started by running prize draws from data received either by post or excel spreadsheets, but the range of services expanded or as Stern says, “we broadened our shoulders, and grew from just doing the back end to helping at the front end too, with drafting easy to read Terms & Conditions. The next move was judging competitions entries such as photographs or tiebreakers. “The business started to grow through requests for associated services.” The biggest change grew from being asked to help with a campaign in France for a major brand. This opened his eyes to the opportunity for guiding huge multinationals to run legal but cost efficient cross-border or multi-country prize promotions. This meant building up his knowledge of international law via a network of hand-picked promotional lawyers across the world. Now around 40% of business comes from overseas projects and last year they worked on campaigns in seventy-five countries.
For brands, and their agencies, using PromoVeritas means that they can sleep soundly at night, knowing that all the details have been taken care and all risks minimised (the company has a £10million global indemnity policy). And that reassurance extends to consumers – if someone claims that a promotion is fixed or not being run well, PromoVeritas can reassure them that all is good, and if necessary, show proof of that fairness and independence and the problem goes away.
How it is going
The business is now 40-strong with its own inhouse legal team, a sales/client management team, plus an operations team and a growing digital development team creating microsites for client campaigns. 2019 was a record year, but Covid resulted in a number of major projects, especially those linked to sporting and festivals being cancelled. But sales have now recovered as brands feel more confident to market themselves, and 2022 is tracking at new record levels with a range of new clients coming on board for the first time.
Jeremy’s history in a wide spread of sectors helped him to build a diverse client base. Today, around 60% of its work is from consumer brands such as Kellogg’s, Cadbury, Carling and Pringles and the rest comes from finance and tech brands like Barclays, American Express and O2. They also oversee live voting for major TV shows – including the ITV’s National TV Awards for the last 11 years.
Jeremy sees plenty more potential within the UK: “There are still many in marketing, legal and finance brands that do not even know that a company like ours even exists. Ignorance of the laws and regulations for running promotions, and our range of services, is our biggest barrier to growth.” But he also eyes the potential for European expansion and is currently exploring ways to use the vast bank of entry data gleaned from the 1,000+ campaigns they run a year.
His final ambition is to side-line himself: “Employing people that are better than you is a clever idea, but difficult to do. Like many business owners, I do not want to give up control of all that I have created. However, I have an MD in place who will help put the right processes in place. I will still be able to work my magic, but as some people have told me, it is best dropped from a height!”
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