One woman's mission to win as many prizes as possible...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roadtest #8: "25 Words or Less" Competitions

Answering questions in "25 words or less" is a circus trick. Sure it takes a while to perfect, but once you've nailed it, it wows audiences again and again.

Mostly, these competitions are found on the Internet and in magazines. The entry form will say something like "In 25 words or less, tell us why you deserve to win" or "Share your most embarrassing story in 25 words or less". So, when you encounter such a beast, what do you do? Here's where you need to run away and join the circus...

Learn the Trick

Put yourself in the judge's place sitting in some miserable marketing office plowing through hundreds of entries. What would you hear over and over again? What kind of entry would stand out? What would you enjoy reading?

The trick to answering these questions is actually simple: make your entry funny, unique and mention the product or brand. This type of entry says to the judge that you are pleasant, clever (and therefore a deserving winner) and will be a genuine, devoted ambassador for her/his company. After all, who would want an ungrateful winner who will make your business look bad?

Should You Rhyme?

There are compers out there who swear rhyming only ticks off the judges and ensures you'll lose. Personally, I love to rhyme and do it almost every time (see, I can't stop -- it's a sickness!). While I'm sure it annoys some judges, obviously not everyone curses my verses -- I've frequently won using poetic "25 words or less" entries.

An Example

At the Marie Claire web site, I find a promotion to win Victoria Beckham's makeup from this month's cover:


  • Re-create Victoria's look with make-up products courtesy of Rimmel Cosmetics.

    How to master Victoria's look
    Re-create Victoria's look with make-up by Rimmel Cosmetics. Create a perfect base with Renew & Lift Foundation in Soft Beige. Add warmth to your cheeks with Mono Blush in Bronze. Define your eyes with Colour Rush Quad Eyeshadow in Smokey Noir, Soft Khol Eyeliner in Jet Black and Max Volume Flash Mascara in Black. Perfect your pout with Lasting Finish Intense Wear Lipstick in Asia.

    We have five packs valued at $117.40 to give away, each pack includes:
    - Renew & Lift Foundation
    - Soft Kohl Eye Pencil in Jet Black
    - Lasting Finish Lipstick in Asia
    - dVb Signature Story for Her 50ml EDT

    To enter:
    Simply tell us in 25 words or less why you love our cover girl Victoria Beckham.

    My entry: 
    Thin as a kohl eye pencil,
    She'd never wear icky Tencel,
    Fashionable and successful and rolling in dosh,
    She's the spice known as Posh!

    It's no literary masterpiece, but hopefully it'll give someone a laugh and might just win.

    Honesty -- the Best Policy?

    Not everyone wants to write a crappy poem about Victoria Beckham, I can dig that. If you want to be a lyin' tamer and just be honest, that's fine. It's often be the best policy. Describing how you own every Spice Girl album and still have your walls plastered with Posh posters may well do the trick. Or, if a competition asks why you deserve to win, you might write about how you haven't had a holiday in 20 years and are currently unemployed. The judge may well feel you need a break and award you the prize. I shy away from this type of entry because I think judges will probably be swimming in similar stories and why would yours stand out? However, if your reason is truly unique, it's definitely worth a shot.

    In the end, there's no point being scared of performing the "25 word or less" trick. Do it right, and you could soon receive a circus ring on the telephone from a promoter congratulating you on your win!


  1. Nice rhyme, I myself find it hard NOT to rhyme. I would love to know what actually wins with Marie Claire. Have entered heaps of times with what I think are stand out entries but so far no luck for me. Starting to be convinced they only read some of the thousands of entries they receive. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hey sandybottoms,

    I keep a record of my winning entries. I won a "Sex and the City" box set from Marie Claire a few years ago with a "25 words or less" entry:
    Wearing Lovely will make me feel transformed from blah into Blahniks and cute New York city style, just like Carrie in Sex and the City!

    (The question was something like "Tell us why you'd love to wear Sarah Jessica Parker's new fragrance".)

    Hope this helps! : )

  3. Thanks, so NOT a rhyme that time
    (oops I'm a poet and I don't know it)? :D
    I think all my entries to them have been rhymes. will keep plugging away of course. I've had some very nice wins in the past with puns as well.

  4. Yeah, maybe the Marie Claire judges dislike rhymes -- it's worth trying a few non-poems to see if it produces a win.

    Good luck! : )

  5. I have won with Marie Claire with a Rhyme but I can,t remember what I wrote , something like Ive,s saint Laurent is money is really the best
    as far as i,m concerned it beats all the rest
    pretty lame but I won

  6. I find 25worlds or less very difficult especially when they give you a confusing question. Sometimes the obvious win but other times the winning answer is much deeper.

  7. I think you just have to do what comes naturally. I am afflicted with "Rhymarrhoea" & just go with it now. It's like trying not to like chocolate when it's just in your blood!

    My semi-educated guess on what happens with judging 25 wol comps is that a couple of marketing dept. juniors go through the reams of entries, put aside maybe 100 of the "best" then pass them on to someone more senior who picks out 10-20 which are then put before the final panel a few days later. This panel would include 1-2 people from the actual promoter (ie. the product) & the rest from the marketing company. They then pick the winner. Obviously we all aim to have our entry outstanding enough to be on the table with the final 10-20 so it gets to the final vote stage.
    So you see, if the juniors skipped over your entry cause they got something in their eye right then, it's all over for you!

  8. I have a question. Do all the competition answers get looked at?

  9. arghhh theres this competition i REALLY want to win. The question is asking about a character in a book and why they are my favourite, and i have to answer in 25 words or less. Does anyone have any tips or ideas for me?? I would really really really appreciate it :)