Re-visiting the $1 Million PCH sweepstakes winners who gave birth to the Prize Patrol
If you’ve been around for over two decades I don’t have to tell you that a lot of things can change over the years. Back in the late 1980’s you probably didn’t have a computer, the internet as we know it didn’t exist, and no one had even imagined a “blog.”
Much has changed at Publishers Clearing House too. We used to be known mainly for selling magazine subscriptions by direct mail. Now we also sell all kinds of merchandise — on the internet too. Of course, PCH shoppers know that we’ve always stood for unbeatable values and customer satisfaction — guaranteed. Our sweepstakes, which started fourteen years after the company’s 1953 founding, remains immensely popular, but now offers more prizes and ways to “play and win” than ever before.
One major change in our sweepstakes occurred in 1988 — when we changed the way we notify winners. Previously we would phone our winners to tell them they’d won. Todd Sloane, now a PCH Senior VP, came to me one day and suggested that delivering Big $1 Million Checks, unannounced and video-taped, to winners’ homes might be more fun and make good TV advertising. I thought it was a fine idea but hard to pull off logistically. Nonetheless, I said OK for Todd and his associate from the Advertising department, Hank, to go to Texas and surprise John Yancy, a man who had just emerged in a drawing as a $1 Million Dollar SuperPrize winner. So off they went — with the Big Check and an amateur home-style video camera.
Well, the results were awesome. You can view the unedited results of our initial foray into “reality TV advertising” on this YouTube clip:
While the camera-work is shaky and non-professional, you can see the drama and joyful emotion that was captured by Todd’s mini-cam. We decided then and there that our old-fashioned way of filming winners ads — weeks later, on a sound stage, with a script — just wouldn’t do. The prize delivery team known as the PCH Prize Patrol was born. Our “actual winning moment” TV advertising is now iconic and has been imitated by the likes of Saturday Night Live and, most recently, by celebrities like Conan O’Brien, in his Prize Patrol spoof TV commercial.
All these years later, John Yancy (a post-grad student back in 1988) and his wife Julie (just home from work in that old video) have seen many changes too. His successful career has taken them from Texas to foreign lands and back again. The then-newlyweds now have three grown children [shown in this smiling family portrait] who are mighty glad that good ol’ Dad was smart enough to enter the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
John entered the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes by mail. That’s still possible these days. But why not make it easy on yourself? Just click here on this link to pch.com and ENTER. It’s simple, and you can enter every day. AND if you enter by the February 15 deadline you could win what could be the biggest SuperPrize in PCH history: $1 Million A Year … for Life!
So hurry, and good luck!
Dave Sayer Prize Patrol Ambassador