Nissan in hot water as Facebook car winner turns out to be staffer's friend

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

November 25, 2011 | 3 min read

The Nissan car company has been engulfed in a Facebook storm after awarding a free $20,000 car and $1250 voucher to personal friends of a staffer managing its Facebook competition.

Zac Martin, car winner

The contest organised by Nissan Australia asked entrants to locate hidden pictures of Nissan Micra cars on the Facebook pages of Australian fashion houses, bars, boutiques and entertainment venues.

Clues were posted by Nissan each day, said the Sydney Morning Herald, and the person to spot the most Micras each week received a $1250 voucher. The overall winner got a free Micra.

On Monday Nissan announced that the winner of the free car was Zac Martin, a digital strategist with George Patterson Y&R.

Martin has described Simon Oboler - who runs Nissan's Facebook and other social media pages - as his "BFF" [best friend forever] on his blog . Additionally, one of the $1250 voucher winners is Nina Igel, who is a Facebook friend of Oboler.

Announcing the winner, Nissan was upfront about Martin, saying "with all honesty and the best of intentions, we wish you hadn't won". Nissan admits Martin is a friend of a Nissan staffer who worked on the competition.

"The reality is that he won fair and square and all is fully above board." Nissan said it couldn't stop friends and acquaintances from entering.

However on its Facebook page many slammed the company, saying the competition was rigged. "I will NEVER buy any car made by Nissan now. This is deplorable!," wrote one.

Another said of Nina Igel, who won Nissan's $1250 voucher,"Who's to say he wasn't handed the answers by his friend?" .

Nissan Australia did not respond to a request by the Sydney Morning Herald for comment.

A marketing source however said that the way the competition was set up meant it was not possible to rig it. Whoever spotted the most Micras won – and there was no subjective decision made. There was no eliminating question, for example asking entrants to write 25 words or less on why they should win.

"The winner simply engaged the most fully in the competition," said the source.

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