How Injap Hacked a Texting Contest
In 2002, I saw an ad in a newspaper for a nationwide contest—the sender of the most number of text messages over the two-week duration of the promo will win a brand-new car.
I read the mechanics carefully, took the full-page ad from the newspaper, and kept the ad in my bedroom while I thought about the competition.
Now, I really wanted to win that car, but I wasn’t sure about joining the contest. The people in Manila are matitinik, I thought; they’re very smart, they’re very sophisticated. What chance does a guy like me—a probinsyano in Roxas City, a small guy and a nobody—have in a nationwide contest? I wasn’t very confident about my chances.
But I couldn’t get that contest out of my mind. For three nights, I stayed up thinking should I join? should I join? I comforted myself by thinking that maybe the smart and sophisticated people in Manila wouldn’t pay so much attention to this promo. Maybe they wouldn’t take it as seriously as I would. How many people will think about how to tackle the promo strategically?
The promo mechanics said that you had to register to join the promo, and after that, you could text in to get an entry. They’ll send you a question that you need to answer, and each answer will earn you a point. You could also find out your rankings by text message any time after that.
So I made some computations. I missed the first three days, so that meant that, if I started sending my SMS entries at a certain volume on the fourth day, I should show up on the top five soon after. If I could rank number one by the seventh or eighth day, it would mean my strategy was working; if I didn’t top the rankings in that time frame, then I would have to stop, because there was no way I could catch up.
I talked to my classmate in college, Ernie, who lived an hour away from me. I went to his boardinghouse in Iloilo and showed him the newspaper. I said, “I’m going to join this. I want you to text at night, and I’ll pay you 200 pesos a day. If I win I’ll give you a cellphone of your choice.” He asked for a Nokia at the time, which cost less than 10,000 pesos, so I thought that was a fair deal.
And so we started. In the morning, I would send my entries. And then at night I would go to his boarding house, and pass on the cellphone we used to join the contest. On the way there, I would drop by the Caltex gas station to buy a siopao and some Lipovitan for Ernie, so he could continue texting through the night. I set an alarm for 3am so I could call Ernie and check if he was still awake and doing his job. The next day, at 7:30 in the morning, I would get the phone again and take over texting.
Over the first few days, I would check to see if I was ranking. If I wasn’t number one by the seventh or eighth day, that means other people were outpacing me. But if I was ranking in the top five within a few days, that meant that other people were only texting in the daytime, and that I could overtake them to win.
I kept the other full-page newspaper ad that said, Hi, Ed Sia, You win the car.
This is an excerpt from Life Principles by Injap Sia, published by Summit Books. The book is available in bookstores, newsstands, convenience stores, and supermarkets nationwide for P295. The book is also available online at www.injapbook.com.