Inside PCH Prize Patrol Origins - PCH Com ActNow

By Gavin | January 07, 2019

Here's how the price patrols started now, back before there was a prize patrol when someone would win a prize in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, someone from PCH would call them on the telephone with the good news now.

Back in 1988, we offered our first ten million dollar prize, I was just a junior member of the advertising department. I wasn't involved with the winners at all, but an award day I could tell, there was a lot of activity around our office. While it turned out the winner of this prize lived in New Jersey right across the Hudson River from our offices, so Dave went to surprise the winner that night.

Her name was Barbara Merlino, and the next day came back with this amazing story of how they were jumping up and down and screaming and calling their friends. My first comment to Dave was "wow, that sounds great, where's the video of all this?" And he was like "what do you mean? We didn't video this, we just showed up." After hearing how exciting this was, I convinced Dave that the next time we should really be capturing this on video because I was sure everyone would want to see this, and the video footage would make for great TV commercials.

This was back in the 80s and everyone was just starting to get home camcorders, so before the next award I went out and bought a camcorder, and on that day I traveled as the camera, and we were really lucky because it was a great winning moment. Her name was Julie Ann, seeing down in Austin Texas and they were jumping up and down and screaming, and the video footage was an amazing experiment of knocking on doors. We finally got a professional cameraman and gave ourselves a name "the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol", and that's how it started.

Now what's funny is that all the things the price probes become known for the Blazers, the van, the flowers, the champagne, and of course the big cheque really just came from real life. We traveled in a van because our crew grew to a few people, we wore Blazers because that's what seemed professional, we got roses and champagne for the winner because we wanted to be celebratory.

And we brought along a big cheque because that just made sense. It's hard to pick out one of my favorite woody moments because there are so many of them, but the ones I remember the most are the early ones when it was such a new concept, and when we would knock on someone's door they had no clue what was going on. But my favorite is always the next one we're going to do because it's always so exciting to knock on someone's door out of the blue and change their life for the better.

So keep on entering, you never know when the prize Patrol might show up at your house.