'Secret Santa' billboard piques interest in Bluffton

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 9, 2013 

A billboard facing U.S. 278 in Bluffton advertises a local contest sponsored by an "Secret Santa" company which plans to give a holiday prize package worth more than $10,000 to the person who responds to its website with the most creative New Year's Eve plans.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Drivers in Bluffton might have noticed a new billboard at the corner of U.S. 278 and Burnt Church Road.

The billboard asks: "What are your #NewYearsPlans?"

It directs onlookers to www.MyNewYearsPlans.com, where visitors can share their name, email and response for a chance to win a gift package worth more than $10,000 provided by a "secret Santa."

The business owner, who is local, plans to remain anonymous until a winner is announced Jan. 6, said Erin Laytham Lentz of Swell New Media, a new Hilton Head Island-based marketing firm representing the mystery client.

Lentz says the business behind the billboard does not want to reveal itself "because it would ruin the contest." She also declined to say what type of business it is.

"It's a Bluffton business that has been around since 1986," Lentz said. "That should comfort people enough to want to enter. They're well-known in the area."

She would not say why the business wants the information or how it intends to use it, other than to select a winner, which will be based on the creativity of responses. She also says the business does not seek anyone's personal information, and information provided will not be shared with another party.

The "Rules of Play" listed on the website states: "By participating in this contest you give the gift giver permission to publish your name in any media format. Your information will only be provided to the gift giver for contest purposes only and not shared for any future product solicitation."

Lentz says it's become common practice for people to provide email information when registering online.

"People are pretty comfortable passing along an email if it's something they're interested in," she said. "... This was a fun, out-of-left-field idea by this business to connect with local residents and capture the holiday spirit of giving."

The website is registered to Michael Kronimus, principal with KRA architecture and design firm in Bluffton, according to www.whois.com. Reached by phone Monday, Kronimus said he was not behind the billboard but was a contributor to the gift giveaway. He did not elaborate.

According to the website, other contributors to the giveaway include Disney Vacation Club, Sunshine Hardscape, Landscape & Nursery, Coastal States Wealth Management of Raymond James, Old Town Dispensary, Gigi's Boutique, Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studio, and Just Dress Me.

Juliana Harris, communications coordinator for the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, said people should be cautious about providing information about themselves online.

"The No. 1 tip we tell people when it comes to shopping or sharing information online is: Know who you are dealing with," Harris said Monday.

The MyNewYearsPlans.com website does not ask for credit card information.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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