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July 23, 2007

Virgin Mobile + Flickr = Lawsuit? (Flickrgate)


Virgin Mobiles latest campaign Are you with us or What which covered press, outdoor and online has been using photos from Flickr that were under an attribution creative common license. So as long as you credit the photographer you can use the photo for free for any use. Sweet deal for the agency as photographers can be expensive. Damn if only Herb Ritts used Flickr.

So nothing wrong so far, an email to the photographer or a free phone would have been nice, but nice doesn't make the world go round. What is causing all the problems is that the photographers didn't get model release forms for the people in the photographs. Most budding photographers wouldn't even know what that is or need to. Not only did Virgin Mobile fail to get photos with models releases they insulted some of them with the actual ad. They did a double whammy with the image above the girl is 15 years old. Ouch.

Note: The message from Host is that for the ad above "the idea is that the girl in the particular ad is the dumper, not the dumpee."
To me that gets lost in translation.

While bloggers and the Flickr community are up in arms, none of them are lawyers and this could all fizzle to nothing. Virgin seem to have changed all the photos on the website Are you with us or to remove any faces. Lucky cats don't have lawyers :)

I've spoken to a few other agencies about this issue and the general consensus was "Yeah Flickr is a great place to get free photos". You even break copyright law by basing vector artwork on a photo you don't own copyright for see here. Although this is a lot easier to hide and harder to prove.

As an active Flickr user for many years I have had my photos used for commercial reasons but each time I have been paid a small fee for my trouble. Usually around $100. Virgin Mobile could have avoided any negative press by just paying a partly fee to those who agree and opting to not use photos for those who don't.

If you want to read more about this then check the article in the Australian, the offending Pen pal photo, a Flickr group discussion where even Flickr's GM weighs in, or here where a representative of Virgin Mobile's advertising team apologizes (slightly) or just Google it and read for hours.

Note: I contacted Host a month ago on this issue but failed to get their side of the story.

Update: July 23, 2007

  • I have the official response from Virgin Mobile's media people (thanks Host)
  • "Flickr is about providing a platform for photographers to reach new audiences. As such the decision to feature Flickr photography was based on the desire to champion a vibrant, current, online community. It was part of an approach designed to reject clichéd 'advertising' imagery in favour of more genuine and spontaneous shots. It is typically Virgin to embrace fresh initiatives and the democratic spirit of Flickr matches the inclusive nature of our 'Are you with us or what?' campaign.

    The images have been featured within the positive spirit of the Creative Commons Agreement, a legal framework voluntarily chosen by the photographers. It allows for their photographs to be used for a variety of purposes, including commercial activities. All of the photographers have been accredited in the adverts."

    Update : July 24, 2007

  • ABC Radio / Triple J had a discussion on this last night - listen
  • So to sum up:
    Using photos with an attribution license is legal.
    Not telling photgraphers you are using their photos on a nationwide campaign seems like a unfriendly oversight that could have avoided some bad juju.
    Not getting model release forms signed by the people featured in the photos is a costly legal grey area.

    Also, what happens if the photographer changes the license later at a later date? In this case, Virgin Mobile wouldn't know of the change in an image's status, because it never made contact with the photographer, and as such the photographer would be unable to inform them either.

    I wonder if Getty Images or the other stock libraries have seen a drop in profits thanks to Flickr?

    June 11, 2007

    Google Adwords and Agencies

    This could be confined to Australia but there are currently two agencies advertising heavily using Google Ad Words. P3 and Smart. It was actually Smart that caught my eye as I see them everywhere on the marketing blogs I frequent.

    Now I understand that if someone searches for "cheap holidays" it's good to have your travel business at the top but I didn't think the same applies here. Although I did hear the story that a brand manager typed in viral marketing and pitched business to the top 5 agencies listed. But anyway back to my point.

    Here's a quick check of some agency names and the sponsored links along with them. If your agency doesn't have a sponsored link (TBWA, Ogilvy) then sadly the two agencies don't consider you much competition or might be owned by your parent company?




    Publicis Mojo:

    M&C Saatchi:

    Leo Burnett:

    What's funnier is when you search for "smart", P3 pops up in the sponsored links.
    Looks like P3 have a higher CPC spend too as they are always above Smart in the listings.


    If you search for Lowe a newcomer joins the frey. Brave New World.
    Hey BNW you should update your keyword list as you're getting killed by Smart and P3 right now.


    However typing in Lowe Hunt will bring Smart back into the game.


    The only agency I got a double hit for was Grey Worldwide. So look out Grey they are after you!

    Grey Worldwide:

    Whoops my searching wasn't precise enough. Searching for Saatchi & Saatchi gives me a triple hit with a recruitment site thrown in. Be warned Saatchi everyone is out to get you.

    Saatchi & Saatchi:

    I'm not sure the agecies affected even care. But I just found it interesting that these agencies were advertising this way.

    I suggest affected agencies regularly Google their name and click the sponsored links. Thus earning money for Google and wasting the rival agencies adwords budget.

    I haven't spoken to either agency (not sure they'd answer questions about this) but I'd be interested in how successful this has been for them or if this is also done in other regions.

    April 18, 2007

    12 Breeds of Client and How to Work with Them


    Great article here about the 12 different breeds of client. Don't worry is also goes through the pros of some of these breeds. We've all worked and work with a few of these.

    April 13, 2007

    Buzzwords 07

    With the explosion of Myspace and SecondLife BS filling up your inbox last year, we're interested as to what the next big thing will be in 2007.

    We're currently road testing the three new "tools" shown above and will have a short report in the next few weeks.

    April 6, 2007

    New Aussie Digital Blog


    AdNews in Australia has launched a new digital advertising focused blog called Digital Watch, touted as "designed to get your digital dollar working harder".

    It's interesting the blog resides on the GPY&R URL and seems anonymous as to who actually is posting the articles. How can I judge the merit of a negative post about a project which for all I know could have been written by the receptionist.

    Also by branding the blog so heavily with GPY&R they may alienate many other agencies/competitors. I made a conscious decision not to make Bannerblog a Soap Creative product. It was important for the blog to be unbiased and seen to promote online advertising and not my agency.

    But my little rant aside it s a good step for the Australian press to cover more digital work which has been lacking in the past. We'll see how this blog pans out.

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